Office of
Sponsored Programs

Participant Support Cost



The following Process is established to ensure compliance with all federal and sponsor requirements regarding budgeting for and expenditure on a category of cost commonly called "participant support cost (PSC)."  The Process ensures the accurate identification and reporting of all costs associated with these expenses.

Background Information

Participant support is provided by a number of federal agencies and other sponsors; however, the National Science Foundation has the most restrictive policies governing the budgeting, expending, and reporting of these funds.  Therefore, the following Process is based primarily upon NSF requirements.

In general, participants are the recipients of service or training provided at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposia, or other short-term instructional or information sharing activity.  The participants are normally not required to provide any specific deliverable to the university or third party, however the purpose of the meeting may dictate that attendees be prepared to provide information or otherwise participate as a part of the stated agenda.

Participants may include students, national scholars and scientists, private sector representatives, teachers, and other who attend and participate in the conference, workshop, or training activity.  Unless specifically provided for in the award document, Stevens' faculty and staff are not eligible for participant support.

Participant support costs are defined in OMB A-122 as:  " 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."  OMB A-122, Attachment B, paragraph 33

It is important to note that all federal references (although sometimes circuitous) to "participant support," whether by incorporation or directly, include the sections of the citation that address "Entertainment Costs" A-21, J17 and "Meetings and Conferences"  A-21, J32.

PI Information for Proposal Preparation and Award Maintenance

  • Anticipated expenses relevant to participant support costs must be included in the proposal and budget justification in order for costs to be approved by OSP - (Meeting and conference cost... are only allowable if such costs are specifically and clearly identified in the proposed scope of work and budget, as modified and approved by NSF). NSF GPG C5
  • May be subject to special sponsor restrictions and requirements
  • Typically do not allow rebudgeting ANY costs from participant support costs category without prior sponsor approval; therefore, costs budgeted in this category cannot offset a deficit in other budget categories
  • PSC are typically exempt from the application of F&A costs; however, specific federal programs may allow the institution to recover F&A

PI/Department Responsibilities

  • Ensure costs have been included in the proposal budget and described in the budget justification – (“…Meeting and conference costs …are only allowable if such costs are specifically and clearly identified in the proposed scope of work and budget, as modified and approved by NSF…”).  NSF GPG C5
  • Review award documents at award set-up, looking for working similar to “participant support costs” or “participant costs awarded” to determine if this cost is allowable for your award
  • Review award document to see if a separate account has been/will be established to track accumulation of participant support costs – some sponsors require separation
  • Monitor expenditures for appropriateness throughout the life of the award
  • Prepare all expenditure documents that include participant support costs using subcode 4755
  • Participant support costs are normally a restricted category and any costs budgeted for this cannot be spent or rebudgeted without prior sponsor approval – all requests for rebudgeting must be submitted through the Office of Sponsored Programs.
  • Contact OSP with any questions or requests for rebudgeting

Federal Regulation

  • OMB A-21, J17 and J32
  • OMB A-122, paragraphs 14, 29, and 33
  • NSF  Award and Administration Guide, Chapter V, C5