Guidelines for Participant Support Costs

Some contract and grant sponsors 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.  Since guidelines vary from sponsor to sponsor and from program to program, it is important to refer to agency and program-specific guidelines. You may also contact the Office of Sponsored Programs for assistance with agency guidelines.

Please note that sponsors do not provide guidance as to tax treatment of participant support payments.  As such, the University must determine the appropriate tax reporting required, if any, and the appropriate payment channel – which may be financial aid disbursement, payroll disbursement, or accounts payable disbursement.  See the table at the end of this section for guidance for commonly occurring participant support payments.

 

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 a UNLV 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 a UNLV employee. Employees from other NSHE campuses are eligible if they do not have a role in organizing the event or forwarding the project’s aims.

A participant may be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or foreign national. The participant must have a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

A participant is not:

  • An employee of UNLV
  • A student or project staff member receiving compensation directly or indirectly from the grant
  • A research subject receiving incentive payments
  • 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:

  • UNLV 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 food 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 transferred for use in other budget categories except with the prior written approval of the sponsor. In most cases, unspent participant support funds must be returned to the sponsor. 

The following expenses, except when specifically allowed by the award, should not be processed as participant support costs:

  • Travel for project PI or staff
  • Multi-purpose travel (i.e., to perform research in addition to attending a project related meeting)
  • Travel for a consultant who is providing service to the university
  • Event support cost (i.e., facility rentals, media equipment rentals, food/refreshments)
  • Entertainment/food for non-participants
  • Honoraria paid to a guest speaker or lecturer
  • Incentive payment to encourage an individual to participate as a research subject
  • Subaward to a provider for multiple training events (i.e., an ongoing contract with specific terms and conditions)
  • Payments to a participant’s employer to reimburse for the costs related to sending the employee to the project event
  • Expenses related to meetings of an administrative nature

How to Process Payments for Participant Support Costs

The chart below provides guidance for commonly occurring participant support payments. For initial processing of participant support payments on a sponsored program first verify that there are funds allocated in the Workday grant (GRxxxx) account, please contact Chris Viton, Controller at chris.viton@unlv.edu or 702-895-5578 to review the specific facts & circumstances to ensure proper classification.

 

Payment Type System/Process Spend Category/Expense Coding
Non-Students (or students external to UNLV)
Subsistence Allowance Stipend Supplier Invoice Request (requires payment registration) Spend Category:
SC0454 – Participant Support
Reimbursement - Travel Supplier Invoice Request (requires payment registration) Expense Item – Participant Support
Or any other expense item
AND Detail Code:
DC024 – Participant Support
Reimbursement – Non-Travel Supplier Invoice Request (requires payment registration) Expense Item – Participant Support
Or any other expense item
AND Detail Code:
DC024 – Participant Support
Paid directly to provider on behalf of participant (i.e., registration fees, lodging) Supplier Invoice Request (or purchase requisition if exceeds purchasing threshold or group travel, etc.)

P-card

Spend category corresponding to what is being purchased such as:
SC0434 – Airfare
SC0517 – Non-employee travel
AND Detail Code:
DC024 – Participant Support
Students
UNLV Tuition and Registration Fees Financial Aid Office Disbursement

Spend Category:
SC0444 - Financial Aid
Ledger Account:
6504 – Scholarship/Fellowship

Subsistence Allowance Stipend Financial Aid Office Disbursement

Spend Category:
SC0454 – Participant Support
Ledger Account:
6610 – Participant Support

Grant - Travel (cash allowance) Financial Aid Office Disbursement

Spend Category:
SC0454 – Participant Support
Ledger Account:
6610 – Participant Support

Travel – travel reimbursement – travel in support of grant activities, conference participation Supplier Invoice Request

Spend Category:
SC0517 – Non-employee travel
and Detail Code:
DC024 – Participant Support

Reimbursement - Materials/supplies related to grant activities Supplier Invoice Request Spend Category:
Corresponding spend item
Detail Code: DC024 – Participant Support
Paid directly to provider on behalf of participant (i.e. conference fees, lodging)

Supplier Invoice Request (or purchase requisition if exceeds purchasing threshold or group travel, etc.)

P-card

Spend Category:
corresponding spend item
Detail Code: DC024 - Participant Support

Stipend

A stipend is a pre-determined amount paid to the participant to help offset housing and/or subsistence expenses.

Stipend payments to nonresident aliens are subject to withholding unless the individual is eligible to claim a tax treaty exemption, please contact Debbie Honrath, Nonresident Tax Specialist at 702-895-1243 or debbie.honrath@unlv.edu.

Participant support stipends to non-students are processed using a Supplier Invoice Request through Workday. The individual must be registered through the NSHE supplier registration system in order to be paid through Accounts Payable. If making multiple or recurring payments to a single participant, a separate Supplier Invoice Request is required for each payment.

Participant support stipends to students are disbursed to their student account by the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. Please contact the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office for assistance in establishing the disbursement schedule and associated setup to appropriately charge the disbursements to the sponsored account.

Reimbursements

Non-Travel Reimbursements

Participant support should rarely be used for reimbursement of non-travel related purchases. However, if such a situation occurs, the reimbursement request should be submitted via a Supplier Invoice Request.

Travel P-card

The department may direct-pay travel expenses for the participant using a p-card.

UNLV Tuition and Fees

If the participant is required to be a registered student in order to participate in the project, the terms of the grant may allow for payment of UNLV tuition and fees. Project administrators should contact the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office to establish a disbursement plan and roster to disburse the award through the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office to the student’s account.