Direct Costs – Participant Support Costs (PCOST)

Click here to access the Participant Support Costs section of the Post-Award Sponsored Projects Guide on page 27.

Participant Support Costs

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences or training projects. These costs require prior agency approval.  In addition, these costs must be excluded when calculating the Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) to determine the overall project’s F&A costs.

Participant is defined as an individual who is the recipient of a service or training provided at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity funded by a sponsored project.  University employees may not be participants.

Because Participant Support Costs must be accounted for separately the Office of Contract and Grant Accounting (OCGA) will establish a separate project to account for the participant support cost portion of the award.

Examples of Allowable Participant Support Costs

  • Stipend. A stipend is a set amount paid to the participant to be used in connection with training.
  • Subsistence allowance. A subsistence allowance is a predetermined amount to be used to help offset housing or subsistence expenses during the period of the training. The cost of a participant’s housing and per diem expenses must be necessary and reasonable for the individual to participate in the training. It should be noted that participants who live in the area local to the training are not entitled to subsistence payments. They can however, participate in the meals and snacks provided at the meeting or conference.
  • Travel. Travel includes the actual costs of transportation, lodging, meals and associated expenses to and from the training location. These costs must follow sponsor guidelines as well as UMBC travel guidelines. The sole purpose of the trip must be to participate in the training.
  • Fees. The fees paid by a participant or on behalf of a participant in connection with training. These fees could include event registration fees, laboratory fees related to participant training, and passport or visa fees for foreign participants.
  • Other. Other costs not listed above should be specifically allowable per the funding solicitation and identified in the approved sponsor budget. These costs are paid to or on behalf of the participant and should be required for their involvement in the training.

What Expenses are NOT Participant Support Costs

  • Honoraria paid to a guest speaker or lecturer
  • Expenses for project personnel or collaborators to attend meetings, conferences, or seminars including meetings to discuss a research project’s progress and direction
  • Payments to participants in human subject research studies
  • Conference support costs such as facility rentals, media equipment rentals, or conference food and snacks
  • Payments to the providers of the training
  • Payments to other employers to reimburse the employer for the costs related to sending its employee to a training.

Re-budgeting out of the line item participant support costs and into the general project budget is not allowable without prior approval of the sponsoring agency. Sponsoring agency prior approval is also required to move budget out of the participant support costs budget lines for Stipend, Subsistence, Travel and/or Fees and into the participant support cost line item of “Other”.

The PI is required to obtain documentation to substantiate participant support costs.  Examples of this documentation may include:

  • Stipend
    • Written agreement prior to program stating the amount of the stipend
    • Stipend rates must be consistently applied across the program and pro-rated where appropriate
  • Subsistence
    • Payments should be documented in the same manner as stipends
    • Reimbursements require the submission of receipts or a previously agreed-upon per diem
  • Program Completion
    • Documentation is required indicating successful program completion
    • Classes or workshops require records indicating program attendance such as sign-in sheets or record of ID being swiped

Acquisition of Participant Owned Sensitive Equipment in Accordance with the terms of a sponsored award

Click here for the full Memorandum


When an award includes terms which allow a participant to receive  a budgeted allowance which includes the acquisition of sensitive equipment on behalf of the participant, the Principal Investigator (PI) should establish a project for the acquisition of sensitive equipment items in accordance with the sponsored award terms and conditions.  The PI should  follow one of the following two methods to accomplish the goal of the award.  In either case, the terms and conditions of the award must specifically allow the acquisition. Please reach out to your unit business person who may contact your OSP representative to confirm allowance of either method.



The student may purchase the sensitive equipment and submit the invoice and receipt documenting the purchase to the PI for review and approval as per requirements as outlined by the Program Sponsor.

The PI may assist the student in preparing a reimbursement request from the Working Fund for benefit of the student (see attached).

The request must reference the following elements in the chart string:

  • Amount: not to exceed program sponsor allowable amount (approved budget)
  • Fund: 1253
  • Department: Designated Sponsored Project Department chartfield
  • P-Fin: Designated Sponsored Project ProgFin chartfield
  • Account – 7120500: Participant Owned Sensitive Equipment
  • Project – Designated Sponsored Project associated with the sponsor approved budget for participant equipment purchases
  • The Participant must sign the Working Fund Reimbursement request as the preparer
  • The PI must sign as the Dept. Approval.

For audit purposes the participant agreement must be attached to Working Fund reimbursement request.  The participant agreement must document the sponsors’ intent to acquire sensitive equipment for the participant.

Note: Only the participant may be listed as the Payee.



The PI may choose to acquire the sensitive equipment item on behalf of the participant.

The PI should order the item through one of the University’s established punch out vendors in the PAW procurement system.  When entering the chart string information be certain to include the following:

  • Fund: 1253
  • Department: Designated Sponsored Project Department Chartfield
  • P-Fin: Designated Sponsored Project ProgFin Chartfield
  • Account – 7120500: Participant Owned Sensitive Equipment
  • Project – Designated Sponsored Project associated with the sponsor approved budget for participant equipment purchases

For audit purposes, the purchase request must be have a copy of the participant agreement attached which documents Sponsor’s intent to acquire sensitive equipment for the participant.


Additional Responsibilities of the Principal Investigator

  1. Monitor participants to insure all sponsor supported purchases are appropriate.
  2. Maintain participant/program documentation so that the University may comply with all provisions of the sponsor for the life of the program.
  3. Inform Inventory Control when the University engages in a sponsored program which may purchase sensitive equipment which will not convey to the University and to which the University has no rights or responsibilities (i.e., care, custodianship, inventory control). Notification to Inventory Control must include:
    • Designated Sponsored Project Department Chartfield
    • Designated Sponsored Project associated with the sponsor approved budget for participant equipment purchases
    • Copy of Participant Agreement which includes a description of the sensitive equipment item to be purchased.

Inventory Control Contact:

Contact Name:  Albert Smith

Contact Email :