Budget Development

Allowable Costs

The University must follow all federal, sponsor, and institutional guidelines to determine if a cost is an allowable expense.

In addition to being allowable, a cost must meet the following criteria to be charged to a sponsored project:

  • Reasonable
  • Allocable to the project
  • Consistently treated
  • Necessary for the project
  • Compliant with any award restrictions
  • Incurred during the project period

Under these principles, costs must be:

  • Reasonable: A cost may be considered reasonable if the nature of the goods or services and the amount of cost involved reflect the action that a prudent person would have taken under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision to incur the cost was made.
  • Allocable: A cost is allocable to a sponsored project if (1) it is incurred solely to advance the work under the sponsored agreement; or (2) it benefits both the sponsored project and other work of the institution in proportions that can be approximated through use of reasonable methods.
  • Given Consistent Treatment: All costs must be treated the same, whether supported by external or internal funds.
  • Compliant: The cost is compliant with any limitations or exclusions set forth in applicable federal regulations and the particular award’s terms and conditions.

Allowable Cost Quick Reference Guide

Personnel Costs

Personnel costs (salaries/wages and fringe benefits) should include only Wright State University personnel. Collaborators at other institutions should be included either as consultants/collaborators or within a separate subrecipient budget. Proposed salaries should be in accordance with approved salary scales and position grades, and the budget should reflect the actual percentage of effort that is anticipated. In developing multi-year project budgets, salary increases are included per year.

Note: some sponsors have limitations on the amount of salary that may be charged to a grant (e.g. NIH salary cap). Check the sponsor’s guidelines or RSP for current limitations.

Types of personnel involved on grants may include:

  • faculty members, academic year and summer faculty
  • research assistants and associates
  • postdoctoral researchers
  • graduate research assistants
  • undergraduate students
  • project technical support personnel
  • interviewers and evaluators
  • Other (specify)

For each person involved in the project, list name (if known), position and percentage of time on the project. RSP includes annual salary increases effective July 1 for fiscal personnel and August 1 for academic year faculty, depending on the start date of the grant. Please contact Human Resources for any questions regarding salaries for new hires.

Calendar Year Information

  • Calendar Year: 2080 hours, 260 days
  • Academic Year: 1,560 hours, 195 days
  • Hours Per Month: 173.33

When personnel salaries are charged, the associated fringe benefits are also charged.

Principal Investigator/Project Director (PI/PD): The person with overall responsibility for the technical and fiscal management of the project.

Co-Investigators: These are other faculty members or other significant individuals who bring specific expertise to the project.

Postdoctoral Researchers: These are usually personnel who have defined pay ranges in HR. See link below for rates.

Other Research Personnel: These are usually research assistants and research associates who have defined pay ranges in HR. See Non-Faculty Research Position Salary Schedule.

Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs): Masters and Ph.D. students may be appointed as GRAs on sponsored projects. See policy regarding maximum hours.

Undergraduate Students: Undergraduate students working on sponsored projects must be paid through student employment at hourly rates.  See policy regarding maximum hours.

Administrative Support: The salaries of administrative and clerical staff should normally be treated as indirect (F&A) costs.  Inclusion of such costs on a proposal budget may be appropriate only if all of the following conditions are met.

  1. Administrative or clerical services are integral to a project or activity.
  2. Individuals can be specifically identified to a project or activity.
  3. Such costs are explicitly included in proposal budget or have prior approval from the sponsor.
  4. These costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.

Other Staff: This category includes technicians, computer programmers, nurses, evaluators, and undergraduate assistants. Identify title, name if known, percent effort, and responsibilities.

Fringe Benefit Rates



15/16 16/17** 17/18**

Faculty - Full-Time (i.e., 51% FTE or greater)

27.0% 26.2% 27.7% 29.2%

Faculty (Part-Time, Overload, Summer, Retirees)

17.8% 19.2% 20.7% 22.2%

Full-Time Unclassified (including Unclassified hourly)

31.9% 36.4% 37.9% 39.4%

Part-Time Unclassified and Classified Staff

15.0% 15.0% 16.5% 18.0%

Full-Time Classified Staff

53.9% 44.4% 45.9% 47.4%

OPERS-Covered Students

16.5% 14.8% 16.3% 17.8%

Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs)

May be eligible for tuition remission;
see tuition schedule below.

Undergraduate/Graduate Student Hourly Employees

No fringe benefits during academic year.

*Rate estimates beyond the established year include a 1.5% escalation factor per year.

**Estimated Rates

Fee Remission Policy

If the sponsor allows for full F&A recovery, and the student stipend is a minimum of $3,400 per semester (or $850 per month, $10,200 minimum for 3 semesters), the student is eligible for tuition fee remission, and the tuition will not be charged to the project. Some departments and colleges have specifically established rates and rate ranges for masters- and doctoral-level GRAs; the PI/PD should check with his/her College/School Business Officer to identify an appropriate rate for the student(s).

Using the same guidelines as above, tuition for projects that receive less than the full F&A costs will be provided as cost share by the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School on an individual case review basis. Prior approval is required and the Vice President will need to approve the tuition fee remission portion of the cost share budget during internal routing.

Salary Increase Escalation Estimate

RSP is currently estimating increases of 3% each year and accumulated annually from that date. The 3% figure is based on average salary increases for the past several years. Individual proposals may use somewhat different escalation factors depending upon the context. For example, if a sponsor limits salary increases to 2% per year, then a 2% escalation factor should be used in proposals submitted to that program.

Contact Career Services for any questions regarding the process for hiring hourly undergraduate and graduate students.

Contact Human Resources for questions related to hiring practices, salary rates, etc.

Non-Personnel Direct Costs


Capital Equipment (purchased): The University’s definition of capital equipment is an item having an acquisition or donated value of $5,000 or more and a useful life in excess of one year. These items are not subject to Facility and Administrative (F&A) costs when Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC) calculation is used as the basis for calculating F&A.

Fabricated Equipment: Fabricated equipment is defined as tangible property that is built or assembled from individual parts that cumulatively have an aggregate cost of $5,000 or more. When budgeting for fabricated equipment, components to be purchased for the building or assembling of the fabricated equipment should be budgeted as Capital Equipment Account #794000. This will ensure that the individual charges will not be assessed the F&A rate.

Equipment needs should be itemized and justified in the proposal. Most sponsors rely on the University's definition of "capital equipment" to differentiate between equipment and supply categories.


Travel costs charged to grants and contracts are subject to specific limitations and restrictions, in accordance with terms set by the sponsor. Travel policies of federal and non-federal sponsors vary. Travelers on University trips that are funded directly or indirectly by a federal grant or contract must abide by the federal rules on air travel. All personnel must comply with the Fly America Act for international travel.

Travel costs include expenses for transportation, lodging, subsistence, and related items incurred by employees who are in travel status on official business related to a sponsored project. Such costs may be charged on an actual basis, or on a per diem or mileage basis in lieu of actual costs incurred subject to the maximum amounts specified by the University and within the University Wright Way Travel Policy and practices consistently applied to all institutional travel activities. Reimbursement of travel costs associated with sponsored research projects must comply with all provisions stipulated by the sponsoring agency, or with all provisions of the University's travel policy if more restrictive. Funds can be requested for travel to scientific meetings, to conduct fieldwork, to collaborating laboratories and for consultation with the funding agency or with colleagues concerning project research.


Materials and supplies include all consumable materials, including the purchase cost of animals as well as small items of equipment that do not meet the threshold for "capital equipment." Each item or group of items should be listed and carefully justified.

Note that federal sponsors do not allow general office supplies unless their use is above and beyond what would be provided through F&A and can be specifically justified for the project.

Computing devices, defined as supplies where the cost is the lesser of the WSU capital equipment threshold of $5,000, are allowable for devices that are essential and allocable, but not solely dedicated to the performance of an award.  The computing devices must be included in the budget and justified in the budget justification that is submitted to the sponsor.

Participant costs

Participant support costs are those costs paid to (or on behalf of) participants or trainees (not employees) for participation in meetings, conferences, symposia, and workshops or other training activities, when there is a category for participant support costs in the award. Registration fees, travel allowances, manuals and supplies, tuition and stipends may be regarded as participant support costs in this case.

Other Direct costs

Other direct costs may be used for other project expenses that do not fit into the above classifications. Examples include publication costs, computer services, human subject participation fees, patient care, participant support, repair and maintenance of proposed equipment purchases, rent and utility expenses, animal services, communication costs, tuition, and some types of telephone service.

Facilities and Administrative Rates (F&A)

Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs (formerly known as indirect costs) are incurred in conducting or supporting research and service but they cannot be readily identified as benefiting particular research or service projects. View additional details on what is considered F&A.

Wright State University maintains a federally negotiated F&A rate agreement that applies to a proposal budget’s modified total direct costs, which consists of the following: all salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials, supplies, services, travel, and subgrants and subcontracts up to the first $25,000 of each subgrant or subcontract (regardless of the period covered by the subgrant or subcontract).

Current rates

Effective 7/1/2013 through 6/30/2017

Organized Research, On-Campus: 48%
Organized Research, Off-Campus: 26%
Other Sponsored Activities, On-Campus: 37%
Other Sponsored Activities, Off-Campus: 26%
Instruction, On-Campus: 48%
Instruction, Off-Campus: 26%

Definition of Modified Total Direct Costs

Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) are the sum total of a projects direct costs, but excludes the following direct cost items:

  1. The portion of each individual subgrant and subcontract in excess of $25,000. An individual grant or contract may include several subgrants or subcontracts
  2. Equipment with an estimated life of one or more years and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit
  3. Arrangements under which federal financing is in the form of loans, scholarships, fellowships, traineeships or other fixed amounts based on such items as education allowances or published tuition rates and fees of an institution
  4. Patient care charges
  5. Tuition remission included as a direct cost
  6. Rental costs of off-site facilities
  7. Capital expenditures
  8. Participant costs

The MTDC base will be applied on all proposals, unless specific sponsor guidelines state otherwise, or the project is eligible for the University’s Wright Way Policy rate exceptions.

It is important to review the program guidelines as many sponsors indicate what costs, including F&A, are or are not allowable. When applying less that the full F&A rate, a copy of the sponsor's guidelines is required to be provided to RSP.

Unallowable Costs

Examples of Unallowable Costs

The federal government provides guidance on items that are considered unallowable costs. The list below includes examples of some but not all unallowable costs.

  • Advertising and public relations (except costs incurred for recruiting personnel required as part of a sponsored project)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Alumni activities
  • Bad debt (including collection costs and related legal costs)
  • Donations and contributions
  • Entertainment costs (including food)
  • Fines and penalties
  • Fundraising
  • Goods or services for personal use
  • Interest expenses (including interest incurred on borrowed capital, temporary use of endowment funds, or the use of the University’s own funds)
  • Lobbying
  • Membership to civic or community organizations
  • Proposal costs (e.g. time and effort, printing and postage, etc.)

Budget Justification/Narrative

The budget justification is a narrative document that defines how the requested and cost-shared amounts were calculated and explains how each cost is related to the project’s goals and objectives. The contents of the budget justification should include any information elements required by the sponsor.

Budget Justification Examples

NIH modular budget and detailed budget examples

NSF budget justification example:
See Attachments

Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is defined as charging part of the costs of a sponsored project to a source other than the sponsor. This is sometimes referred to as matching funds. Voluntary cost sharing should be minimized whenever possible.

Types of Cost Sharing:

  • Mandatory Cost Sharing
    Mandatory cost sharing is required by the sponsor in the program announcement. “Mandatory” refers to those costs that are required to be contributed by the University as part of the award.
    • Examples: In some cases, the applicant must provide an amount equal to the sponsor’s funds, i.e., a one-to-one match. In other situations the sponsor will specify a percentage of participation in such costs (e.g., sponsor will provide funds not to exceed 75% of total project costs).
  • Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing
    Voluntary committed cost sharing is NOT required by the sponsor, but is quantified in the proposal budget or budget justification. In general, University resources should not be offered unless required; however, there are disciplines and sponsors where such voluntary cost sharing may enhance the competitiveness of proposals. Voluntary cost sharing commitments in a proposal that is funded become a condition of the award agreement and must be fulfilled.
    • Examples: Providing a cost share budget or budget justification to the sponsor showing a percent of effort higher than the sponsor is paying and/or details on additional salary, fringe, and F&A amounts that are not paid by the sponsor. (If awarded, the cost share total committed will need to be tracked by Post Award as part of the award and reporting process, if the sponsor requires it.)
  • Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Sharing
    Voluntary uncommitted cost sharing is NOT required by the sponsor, and is NOT quantified in the proposal budget or narrative. In general, University resources should not be offered unless required; however, there are disciplines and sponsors where such voluntary cost sharing may enhance the competitiveness of proposals.
    • Examples: Unrecovered F&A over the sponsor’s allowable F&A rate, tuition, salary over the NIH cap, contributing more effort on the project than the amount of support requested from the sponsor (i.e. cost share not reported to the sponsor).

Sources of Cost Sharing Funds

  • Cash
    Any contributions that use University funds are considered cash cost sharing for the purposes of documentation and reporting. Outside collaborators may also provide cash funds for cost share.
  • In-kind or Third Party
    In-kind contributions are “donations” of services (professional, technical or consultant), supplies, equipment or cash from a source outside the university. These third party contributions must be integral to and necessary for the project or program, and their value must be reasonably determined.