Participant support costs (PSC) 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 and are usually excluded from the Facilities and Administrative (F&A) calculation (exceptions apply).
Who are participants? Participants may be students, national scholars and scientists, private sector company representatives, state or local government agency personnel, teachers and others who attend and participate in a conference, symposia, workshop, or short-term training activity supported by a particular award. Participants perform no work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit; they are not involved in providing any deliverables to the University or a third party and may not be a MSU employee or MSU student that is receiving compensation directly or indirectly from the project. Research subject incentives can be easily confused with PSC. A research subject incentive description is listed below in the "Other" category. See the Federal Uniform Guidance definition for more information.
What may be included as participant support costs? Some examples include:
- Event registration fees.
- Event support costs for lodging and meal expenses paid directly to the event facility, only if the payment is made on behalf of, or reimbursed directly to the participant.
- Tuition if required to participate in project.
- Laboratory or training materials if required.
- Stipend – predetermined amount to be paid directly to participant.
- Subsistence allowance – predetermined amount to assist with costs (such as lodging, meals, and laundry) necessary to participate in the project. Note that local area participants are exempt from having these costs covered.
- Travel costs when the sole purpose of the trip is to participate in the project activity.
- Meals and incidentals when on travel status.
What costs are not considered participant support costs? Some examples are:
- Room rental and related expenses (e.g. presentation technology support).
- Payments made to research subjects as an incentive for recruitment or participation in a research project. (This is a common budgeting mistake.)
- Guest speaker consultant costs (includes consultant fees and related expenses such as travel, etc.).
- Expenses for the PI, project staff or collaborators to attend meetings, conferences or seminars.
- Payments to Graduate Research Assistants.
- Payments to trainees who are receiving compensation, either directly or indirectly, from other Federal government sources while participating in the project.
Why is the participant support cost classification important?
There are two main reasons for classifying participant support costs correctly. First, if an expense is incorrectly identified as a participant support cost, the Federal funding agency may not consider it an allowable cost as defined by the Federal Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200.1). Second, participant support costs are handled differently when assessing Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A). The Uniform Guidance states that participant support costs are exempt from F&A in federally sponsored projects. Therefore, you need to exclude PSC from the MTDC base so they will not accrue indirect costs. This is why participant support costs are included in their own category in Federal budgets. For non-Federal awards, sponsor-specific guidelines should be utilized to determine if F&A is allowable on participant support costs. If there are no sponsor-specific guidelines, the Federal Uniform Guidance, which excludes F&A from PSC expenses, should be followed.