Skip to main content

Participant Support Costs

Participant support costs (PSC) are defined by the Uniform Guidance in §200.1 as 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.

Who is a Participant?

A participant is the recipient, not the provider, of a service or training opportunity as part of a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity funded by a sponsored award. Participants may be, but are not limited to, students, scholars, scientists from other institutions, or teachers. Participant support is funding provided to help defray the costs to participants or trainees (but not employees) of participating in a conference or training activity.

Examples of Participants

  • students
  • scholars
  • scientists form other institutions
  • representatives from the private sector
  • teachers
  • state or local government agency personnel

Participants should have no other project role, paid or otherwise. PI, Co-PIs, and other personnel, including students, who are being paid on the project cannot be participants.

What are examples of participant support costs?

Participant support costs may include costs of transportation or travel allowance, per diem, manuals and supplies directly attributable to individual participants, tuition and stipends, and other related costs for participants or trainees.

Other costs may also be allowable if consistent with university policy and practice and specified in the proposal approved by sponsor upon review.

Participant support costs should not be confused with general travel or rental costs, which may be incurred by principal investigators and other project team members as they relate to individual research and other projects.

Rebudgeting for Participant Support Costs

For federal awards, any rebudgeting of participant support costs to another budget category requires the approval of the sponsor.

For non-federal sponsors, award specific guidelines should be consulted before rebudgeting.

Participant support costs are excluded from the calculation of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) base.

If awarded, a separate segment is created for participant support cost line items. Cost are incurred and charged to these line items. At the end of the project, the segment is closed out and rolls up to the Parent Project.


The number of participants to be supported must be entered in the proposal budget. These costs also must be justified in the budget justification section of the proposal.

Participant support costs should be considered as only those costs that can directly be attributable to an individual participant rather than costs that support all participants collectively.

Programs where participant support costs may be appropriate include:

  • Research Experience for Undergraduates funded by the National Science Foundation.
  • Conference and workshops as part of a larger scope project such as a multi-site research project

Always refer to specific agency regulations for additional guidance on participant support costs.


No. Individuals participating as human subjects would not be considered a participant. Those costs should be budgeted as Other Direct Costs. Remember, for costs to be included in the participant support line, the primarily role of the individual on the project must be as a participant.

 It depends and will need to be determined in collaboration with C&G and other University offices, due to the potential tax implications

Participants’ per diem for obtaining their own food and restaurant payments, without a contract, for participants only, can be budgeted as participant support costs. 

Conference catering, contracted catering, or similar food offerings should be budgeted elsewhere.

Boxed lunches may be allowable by certain sponsors if the PI can provide sufficient documentation such as a list of participants with names and the number of participants that matches the amount of boxed lunches that were ordered). 

Costs for project organizers (such as PI, co-PI, etc.), speakers, and program facilitators or coordinators, even where these individuals may also participate as a program participant, are not considered participant support costs.

Not without approval by the sponsor prior to charging to the award. This would be considered an incentive or prize to participate.

If the laptops are required for the participants to participate or be trained, yes. However, there may be tax implications on the participant.