Participant Payments

Some awards include a budget category called ‘participant support costs,’ which are defined 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 meetings, conferences, symposia, or training projects. These costs are allowable with the prior approval of the awarding agency.

Participant support is allowed by a number of contracts and grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), including the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. While participant support expenses are handled as direct costs under extramurally supported contracts and grants, agencies vary as to whether some or all of these cost items are included in the direct cost base upon which indirect costs are calculated.

Since guidelines vary from sponsor to sponsor and from program to program, it is important to refer to agency and program-specific guidelines.

Who is a participant?

A participant is an individual who is receiving a service or training opportunity from a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity funded by a sponsored award. A participant may be an SSU student/scholar, a student/scholar from another institution, a private sector company representative, a K-12 teacher, or a state or local government agency personnel. A participant may not be an SSU employee. Employees from other CSU campuses are eligible if they do not have a role in organizing the event or forwarding the project’s aims.

A participant is not:

  • An employee of SSU
  • A student or project staff member receiving compensation directly or indirectly from the grant
  • A recipient of any compensation from any other federal government source while participating in the project (applies only to federal grants)

A participant does not perform work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit. The participant is not required to deliver anything or provide any service to the university in return for these support costs.

What are participant support costs?

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as participant allowance, supplies, per diem, travel expenses, and/or registration fees paid to or on behalf of a participant in connection with a meeting, workshop, conference, symposium or training project conducted under the award. Amounts must be reasonable, based on type and duration of the activity, and outlined in the program solicitation.

Participant support costs may include the following expenses:

  • SSU tuition and registration fees if required to participate in the project
  • Event registration fees
  • Stipend (predetermined amount regardless of actual costs) for housing and subsistence allowance
  • Travel costs when the sole purpose of the trip is to participate in the project activity
  • 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
  • Meals and incidentals when on travel status
  • Training materials
  • Lab supplies

All costs that are reimbursed or paid on behalf of the participant must be incurred within the project period and be specifically allowed by the sponsoring agency. Participant support costs are budgeted in a separate line and must be accounted for separately. Funds provided for participant support costs that are not spent cannot be rebudgeted for use in other categories except with the prior written approval of the sponsor. In most cases, unspent participant costs must be returned to the sponsor.

How to process participant support costs

Payments for $2,500 or less

  • Direct Pay/Direct Invoice for Cash Payment: The Direct Pay/Direct Invoice method may be used up to $2,500 as long as a contract is not required. Participant will sign and submit the Direct Pay template stipulating attendance at meeting, invoice, and submit to PI for approval. All payments will be made to participant in arrears.
  • If the participant is not a current vendor (has not received any payment in the past), a completed Vendor Form 204 should be included with the Direct Pay form and supporting invoice.

Payments greater than $2,500

  • Department to submit EREQ to Procurement at least two weeks prior to event.
  • If the participant is not a current vendor (has not received any payment in the past), a completed Vendor Form 204 should be sent to Procurement with the EREQ.
  • Cash Payment in excess of $2,500: if a participant is attending a meeting/workshop/conference the EREQ should include the amount of the cash payment to be paid participant, name and place of meeting, and date(s) of attendance.

Travel reimbursement to participants

  • Travel Expenses: the EREQ should include what travel expenses will be reimbursed by SSU (i.e. air, hotel, meals, car, mileage, conference registration fee). EREQ should include a maximum amount to not exceed. If travel claim only, MOU will be issued by Procurement.
  • Upon receipt of EREQ, Procurement will process and submit to Sponsored Programs Administration for approval. A Buyer will be assigned once approved.
  • Buyer will issue a Purchase Order or Contract and include a travel reimbursement claim form and instructions to be sent to the participant with the Purchase Order or Contract. Unique needs occasionally occur and Procurement can assist.
  • Business related expenses sometimes are needed to be purchased and are not always known at the time the EREQ is submitted. If a participant needs to be reimbursed for a business related expense, a new EREQ must be submitted to add the expense to the original Purchase Order/Contract.
  • If the participant requires assistance to pay in advance (partial or in full) for airfare or a registration fee it should be noted on EREQ and Procurement will secure the airfare/registration/hotel for them. EREQ should include any registration forms or flight information.