General Cost Principles

The proposal budget is the financial plan of action that reflects the costs required to perform the proposed work statement.  The following information has been prepared to help you develop your budget plan.  See our Budgeting and Costing Guide for current information on fringe benefits, graduate stipends, Facilities and Administration (F&A) rates (Indirect Costs) and other budgetary matters.

It is important to demonstrate that the budget proposed is reasonable.  A budget justification should be submitted in order to allow each budget item to be explained relative to the proposed research.  The specifics of the sponsoring agency’s budgetary guidelines should be followed carefully.  Budgets should be prepared for the entire proposed project. Both direct and F & A costs should be identified in the budget. The following categories are generally included in the preparation of a proposal budget.

Budget Categories and Justification

Salaries and Wages

List all personnel, including the names, roles, how many months, or the percent of effort that will be devoted to the project. Salaries and wages should be budgeted with an inflation rate specified on the Budgeting and Costing Guide. Information on salaries and rates can be found on the Budgeting and Costing Guide.  Salary classifications and compensation can be found at the Human Resources website. or at the Payroll website.  The NIH Guidelines for Salary Limitation on grants should be adhered to when calculating faculty salaries.


Faculty on nine-month appointments may receive salary during the summer months. A maximum of three-ninths of the academic year salary may be requested. Sponsor guidelines will often dictate the number of months that can be allotted for summer salary.

Graduate Assistants

The Graduate School regulations state that full-time graduate assistants will devote no more than 20 hours per week to their assistantship duties during the academic year. Federal immigration regulations prohibit International students on F-1 or J-1 visas from working more than this amount when classes are in session. When classes are not in session, both international and domestic students may devote their full-time efforts to employment. Under special circumstances, a domestic graduate student may devote more than 20 hours per week to employment on campus during the academic year. In those cases, assurance must be given by his or her advisory committee, that such effort will not compromise satisfactory progress toward the degree.

Graduate Assistantship appointments ordinarily are made for a nine-month period during the academic year. They may also be made for a maximum of three summer months, depending upon the availability of funding.

The budget justification for graduate students should include the number of graduate students; their level of experience, whether it is an academic year or calendar year appointment, and how many hours will be spent on the project per week (20 hours a week for a quarter-time Graduate Assistant). Refer to the Graduate School website. for detailed information on graduate education, tuition costs and levels of experiences.  Detailed costing information can be found on the SPS Budgeting and Costing Guide.

Student Labor

Costs should reflect the hours, the hourly rate and length of time being spent on the proposal. Please refer to the Student Employment website. for levels of experience and compensation.

Other Professionals

Personnel included in this category are typically research assistants and associates, technicians, and computer programmers. The percentage of effort or hours should be stated for this category of personnel.

Post Doctoral Fellows

Post Doctoral Fellow stipends should follow the NIH NRSA stipend levels which can be found on the NIH website. The percentage of effort or hours should be stated for this category of personnel.

Administrative/Clerical Staff

OMB Uniform Guidance states that the salaries of administrative/clerical staff should normally be treated as F & A costs; however a request for administrative and clerical salaries may be included in a federal proposal budget when the following conditions are met:

1. Administrative or clerical services are integral* to a project or activity;

2. Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity.

Such costs must be explicitly included in the budget.

If these requirements are met, PIs/departments should include a justification statement that explains how the services are integral for the project to facilitate the required agency approval.

*Integral means the services are essential, vital, or fundamental to the project goals or activity, rather than necessary for the overall operation of the institution.

Programmatic Salary Costs

Costs related to protocol development and maintenance, managing substances/chemicals, managing and securing project-specific data, and coordination of research subjects are allowable direct costs when they are “contributing and directly related to work under an agreement.” Thus, these programmatic costs may be direct charged using the same underlying requirements as other types of direct costs, and are not subject to the extra approval requirements required of administrative and clerical costs. They are still subject to all regular costing requirements (e.g., allocability, reasonableness, allowable by terms of the award, incurred within award period).

Fringe Benefits

The fringe benefit rates should reflect the current rate schedule for the employment category being proposed.  Please refer to the Budgeting and Costing Guide.


Equipment is defined as tangible, non-expendable, personal property having an anticipated life of one year or more with a unit acquisition cost of $5,000 or greater. Equipment includes, but is not limited to, furnishings, scientific apparatus, machinery, library volumes, artwork, motor vehicles, boats and livestock. You will need to identify the individual pieces of equipment requested, the importance to the project, and why existing equipment does not suffice.  Price quotes or the basis for projected prices may be required for larger pieces of equipment. Equipment costs are excluded from the Facilities and Administrative base. For more information see equipment definitions on the Accounting website.


Travel costs are classified as those expenses for transportation, lodging, subsistence and related items incurred by employees who are traveling on official University business. Domestic and foreign travel should be separately identified. Unless otherwise stated by the sponsor, domestic travel is considered to be travel among any of the 50 United States, its possessions and territories, and Canada. Foreign travel is classified as travel outside these areas. Travel justification should include who is traveling, where, the purpose of the trip, the number of trips, the costs for the air fare, per diem, lodging, car rental and other costs associated with the travel. For more information see the Travel website.

Materials and Supplies

Supplies and materials are any consumable item having an acquisition unit cost of less than $1,000.  These costs should be project-specific, reasonable and based on actual or historical use. It is not necessary to break down each individual item, but a general description and amount by general classification should be provided (e.g. glassware, test tubes, or chemicals).

Publication Costs

Publication costs consist of the documenting, preparing, publishing, disseminating, page and reprint charges, and sharing of project findings and supporting material. Budgets should be based on actual experience with an inflation factor built in for future years.


If a portion of the work is to be completed by another institution, we will need an Information and Compliance Form for Subrecipients signed by an authorized representative of the sub-contractor’s institution, stating their willingness to participate with the University on the proposed project. The sub-contractor will need to provide our office with a statement of work, budget, budget justification and F&A Rate Agreement.  Facilities and Administrative costs are charged on the first $25,000 of each sub-contract.


Consultants are independent contractors, not employees, who provide a service that cannot be performed satisfactorily by existing University personnel during the performance of the project.  The consultant costs should include the period of service or the number of days on the project, the professional fee, travel expenses and other related expenses.  Consultants should provide a letter of intent to  Sponsored Program Services.

Animal Care Costs

Animal costs should reflect the type of animal, the number of animals and the unit cost per animal. Per Diem costs should list the number of days of Per Diem.  Per Diem rates can be found on the Animal Care Services website. The current F & A rate should be applied to Animal Care Costs.

Other Expenses

Indicate any other project-related expenses, such as postage, long-distance telephone charges, equipment maintenance, boat charges, computer services, participant stipends and human subject costs.  Justification would include the number of units and cost per unit.

Facilities and Administration (F & A) Costs

Facilities and Administrative costs, formally called indirect costs, are those costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project.

It is the policy of the University to collect full F & A costs at the federally negotiated rates from all funding sources whenever possible.  Occasionally, a sponsoring agency will specify an F & A policy inconsistent with the University’s negotiated rate.  Only the Office of the Vice President for Research has the authority to accept a reimbursement rate other than our negotiated rate. These payments from the various programs are reimbursement to the University for certain actual costs incurred by support functions to conducting sponsored research programs at the University.  In addition, a portion of this money from research grants goes to the Research Council to be used for research incentive funds, grant programs for faculty and graduate students, and to meet cost sharing requirements for large equipment purchases. The University negotiates its rate with the DHHS, and is based on Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC).  Our negotiated rate agreement can be found under Frequently Requested Information, along with the name and address of our Cognizant Agency.

In accordance with our current F&A Rate Agreement:

For all activities performed in facilities not owned by the institution and to which rent is directly allocated to the project(s), the off campus rate will apply. Grants or contracts will not be subject to more than one F & A rate.  If more than 50% of a project is performed off campus, the off campus rate will apply to the entire project.

The off campus indirect cost rate can be budgeted as follows:

  • If rent is directly charged to the project.
  • If more than 50% of all program activities are performed off campus.   (We request written confirmation from the PI).
  • If the sponsor specifically requires the off campus rate per the solicitation.

If you have questions, please contact your SPS Grants/Contracts Specialist.

Cost Sharing/Matching


Cost sharing or matching on grants and contracts reflects the university’s contribution to the total costs of a sponsored research project. Cost sharing, therefore, represents the portion of the project costs not paid for by the sponsor.

General Information

Cost sharing should be limited to those situations where it is mandated by the sponsor. In certain circumstances, the University may determine that a contribution is necessary to ensure the success of a competitive award or competition. All cost sharing dollars require written approval from the source of the commitment.

The PI or department should refrain from making commitments voluntarily, as any promised cost share becomes part of the project cost, even if only mentioned in the narrative and not in the budget. Once awarded, the commitment will have to be tracked in the University’s accounting system and is subject to audit. Failure to comply with the cost-sharing commitment may result in a loss of funding.

Required Approval

For internal commitments, the “Cost Share Commitments” section on the Internal Proposal Review form should be completed and signed by the appropriate Unit/Department Head or Dean.

For external commitments, a letter of commitment signed by the agency’s authorized official is required.

Criteria for Cost Sharing Commitments

The Uniform Guidance  states that contributions, including cash and third party in-kind, are acceptable as cost-sharing contributions.

The cost sharing/match must meet the following criteria to be accepted:

  • The match must be verifiable from the recipient’s records. You will be asked to specify an account in the University’s accounting system (KFS);
  • Not included as a contribution for any other project;
  • Necessary and reasonable to accomplish the project’s objectives;
  • Allowable under the Cost Principles;
  • Not paid by the Federal Government under another award, except where authorized by Federal statute to be used as cost sharing or matching;
  • Are provided for in the approved budget.


Types of Cost Sharing

Typical examples of cost sharing include the percentage of personnel effort to be expended on the project; associated employee benefits; Graduate Research Assistant Tuition and un-recovered indirect costs. Costs incurred prior to the award are not allowable matches. Program income earned under an award may not count as cost sharing unless authorized by the sponsor.

Cash contributions are sources of funds from either internal or external sources.  University cost sharing is considered cash, as it can be accounted for from the University’s records. In-Kind contributions are non-cash contributions typically provided from outside sources such as donations of equipment, sub-contractors  of time or facilities, or volunteer services.


General Cost Principles

Sponsoring agency’s budget requirements vary considerably depending on the sponsor and type of proposal. Cost principles specified in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Grant Guidance are used to describe the cost principles for all sponsored agreements at the University of Connecticut. The tests for appropriateness under these principles are:

  • Reasonableness – A cost may be considered reasonable if the nature of the expenditure and the amount involved reflects the action that a prudent person would take under the circumstances.
  • Allocability – A cost is allocable if it is beneficial to the project.
  • Allowability – Costs must be allowed in accordance with the Uniform Grant Guidance and the terms of the sponsored agreement.
  • Consistency – Costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances must be treated consistently as either direct or facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, and the method used to estimate, record, and report costs must be consistent as well.  See the table below for a description of how costs should be treated.

Nonrecoverable (Unallowable) Costs

Expenditures that cannot, by federal regulation (Uniform Grant Guidance) be reimbursed, either in whole or in part, from the federal government are considered non-recoverable (unallowable) costs. When preparing a budget, the following costs are considered non-recoverable and should not be included in your proposal budget. Please consult with Sponsored Program Services if you have questions regarding these items.

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Alumni activities
  • Bad debts
  • Commencement and convocation costs
  • Donations and contributions
  • Development/fundraising costs
  • Entertainment costs
  • Employee morale
  • Excessive employment recruitment costs
  • Fines and penalties
  • Goods or services for personal use
  • Housing and personal living expenses
  • Investment management costs
  • Lobbying costs
  • Memberships
  • Moving costs
  • Student activity costs
  • Travel costs in excess of commercial coach airfare

Direct and F & A (Indirect) Costs Items

Direct costs are those costs that can be specifically identified with a particular sponsored activity.  Direct costs are those costs that can be assigned to an activity relatively easily and with a high degree of accuracy.

F&A costs are costs that are incurred for common or joint objectives and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity or any other institutional activity.

Costs must be treated consistently.  Consistent treatment means that similar costs must be treated uniformly in the same manner as either a direct cost or as F & A costs.  Certain types of costs, such as the salaries of administrative and clerical staff, office supplies and postage are normally treated as F & A costs, therefore, the same types of costs cannot be charged directly to federally sponsored agreements.

Direct Costs F & A Costs
Salaries & Wages/Fringe Benefits: Faculty, other professionals, technicians, post doc associates, research associates, graduate students. Salaries & Wages/Fringe Benefits: Typically clerical and administrative assistants, fiscal manager, secretaries, directors.
Office Supplies: Office supplies are normally included in the indirect costs base. Office Supplies: Pens, pencil, paper, staple, transparencies, toner cartridges, diskettes, printer paper, word processing and spreadsheet programs.
Lab and Computer Supplies: Medical, scientific pharmaceutical supplies. Software and/or diskettes for research data collection and/or scientific and technical purposes. General Computer Supplies: Diskettes, printer paper, word processing and spreadsheet programs.
Equipment: Equipment and computing devises used for scientific, technical, and research purposes. Equipment: General office equipment such as copiers, printers, computers, fax machines.
Facilities: Project specific space rental for off-campus facilities from a third party. Facilities: Utilities, building use, grounds maintenance, renovations, and alterations.
Postage, printing and photocopying: Normally indirect unless the specific project scope of work, such as surveys or questionnaires, clearly indicates a need for a volume of costs beyond routine. Postage, printing and photocopying: US non-priority or inter-office mail delivery, printing of administrative forms, or photocopying of routine low volume material.
Telephone:  Long distance calls, phone surveys or calls to project participants. Telephone: Local calls, cell phones, installation and maintenance.
Maintenance & Repairs: Requires justification that the expenditures are directly related to the specific award. Maintenance & Repairs:  Maintenance and repairs to general purpose equipment, buildings and grounds.
Advertising: Recruitment of research subjects or for personnel approved for a specific project. Advertising:  Public relations.
Publications:  Project specific research. Publications: General.
Freight/express deliveries: Justification required that cost was needed to transport project material in a timely manner. Freight/express deliveries: Routine or internal courier.
Consulting:  Project specific research. Consulting:  General.
Miscellaneous Costs: Subcontract Costs; Service Center Charges;  Training costs, Miscellaneous Costs:  Dues, memberships and subscriptions; Computer network charges; Utilities.

See also the Implementation Guide (Uniform Grant Guidance)  for Principal Investigators and Department Administrators.

The OVPR SPS reviews the appropriateness of costs to determine if they qualify as direct costs. Exceptions (allowing costs listed in the F & A Column as direct costs) to the above list are rare and are reviewed on a case by case basis by the OVPR SPS. Exceptions may occur when:

  • The program is a large complex project such as a center project that involves assembling and managing teams of investigators from a large number of institutions or units.
  • The project involves extensive data collection, analysis and entry, surveying, tabulation, cataloging, searching literature, or reporting.
  • The project requires coordinating travel and meeting arrangements for a large number of program participants, patients or subjects; or for conferences or seminars.
  • A project where the principal focus is the preparation and production of manuals, large reports, books or monographs (excluding routine progress and technical reports.)
  • The project is off campus and does not have access to normal department administrative services.