Other (non-key) Personnel
Graduate student compensation
The salary or wage norms for graduate research assistants vary by department and program. The graduate program director should be consulted for guidance on the rate of compensation normally provided to graduate research assistants. Graduate students whose role is a Graduate Research Assistant, in addition to salary / wages, also receive tuition, as per University policy. All academic units except for the School of Education routinely contribute half of the tuition needed on a sponsored project for graduate research assistants, provided that the sponsor will be charged for the other half the tuition cost and full indirect costs are recovered.
Graduate teaching assistant appointments are limited to those projects that clearly identify this activity in the proposal.
Graduate administrative Assistants are not allowed on federal awards, as the combined cost of wages, fringe benefits and tuition makes the cost unreasonable.
See also Other Direct Costs, for additional information on tuition costs.
NIH compensation cap
NIH limits total graduate student compensation on research grants or cooperative agreements to the NRSA zero level of experience for postdoctoral fellows. Total graduate student compensation is the sum of salary, fringe benefits and remitted tuition. For the current pre-doctoral stipend levels, go to: NRSA Stipend Schedule, scroll down to “NRSA Stipend Levels” and select the fiscal year of interest.
The difference between salary and stipend
Salary or wages are payments that are compensation for work performed. Salary (compensation received by exempt employees) and wages (compensation received by non-exempt employees) are subject to taxes. Salary and wages are processed through the payroll system and reported on an employee’s Form W-2 and/or Form 1042-S.
Stipends are payments that are not compensation for work performed, but rather are funds provided to support educational or research training. Because these payments are not forms of compensation (no services are required), they will not appear on a Form W-2 and may or may not be subject to tax withholding and reporting (see also: Stipend Information Sheet. As indicated on the Comptroller’s web site, be advised that the tax withholding and reporting rules differ for US Citizens and Nonresident Aliens.)
- Stipends are a form of scholarship and are expressly disallowed on federal research grant awards.
- NOTE: please contact OSP if you have any questions about sponsor’s intent. The term ‘stipend’ is among the most frequently misused in the sponsored programs area.
- OSP is responsible for reviewing sponsors’ guidelines and determining whether students are to receive compensation for work performed, or a stipend for educational or research training purposes. OSP consults with the Comptroller’s Office if sponsor’s guidelines are ambiguous.
Recommendation: Because stipends do not include fringe benefits, when applying for a fellowship or training grant, it is important to consider whether health benefits can or should be purchased. Most sponsors now allow this as a separate line item on the application. Health benefits can be purchased from external providers with whom the University contracts. Please contact Student Health Services; for additional information go to Student Health Insurance.
ALERT: The purchase of such non-employee benefits for a student is considered a fellowship payment and is distinct from the tuition and fees required to attend the institution. Consequently, these non-employee benefits may or may not be subject to tax withholding and reporting.
Administrative and Clerical Support
Administrative and clerical support costs are generally not allowable on federal projects except for when four conditions are met in accordance with OMB Uniform Guidance Section 200.413.
The direct charging of administrative salaries is only allowable when all of the following conditions are met and described in the budget justification:
- Administrative or clerical salaries are integral to a project or activity;
- Individuals involved can be specifically identified with the project or activity;
- Such costs are explicitly included in the approved budget or have the prior written approval of the cognizant Agency; and
- The costs are not also recovered as indirect costs.