Participant Support Costs Guidelines

Responsible Offices: Sponsored Projects Accounting & Office of Sponsored Research Services
Effective Date: April 2024

Participant Support Costs as defined by 2 CFR 200.1 and 200.456 are 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 conferences, or training projects (NOTE: participants support costs do not apply to NIH training grants).  Sponsor approval must be obtained before incurring participant support costs on sponsored projects.

A participant is defined as the recipient, not the provider, of a service or training associated with a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information-sharing activity.  Participants may include students, scholars, and scientists from other institutions, individuals from the private sector, teachers and state/local government personnel. Employees of the Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) are not eligible to receive participant support.

Participant Support Costs will be specifically identified on National Science Foundation (NSF) awards.  Other sponsors may include participant support costs, but not necessarily refer to them as participant support costs.  For NIH Kirschstein-NRSA programs, the term does not apply.  NIH will continue to use the terms trainees, trainee-related expenses, and trainee travel to identify these costs.


Participant Support Costs must be explicitly identified in the budget and budget justification of the grant application and be included in the sponsor-approved budget. Sponsored Project Accounting will establish a unique Grant line in Workday to separately budget and track these costs.

  • Funds provided for Participant Support Costs (e.g. Stipends, Subsistence Allowance and Travel Allowance) can be rebudgeted within those categories without prior approval. 
  • Transfer of funds into the Participant Support – Other Cost category requires prior written approval of the sponsor.
  • Funds for Participant Support costs cannot be rebudgeted for use in other budget categories in other Grant lines (salaries, fringe benefits, equipment…) except with the prior written approval of the sponsor.
  • Funds provided in other budget categories in other Grant lines may be rebudgeted into the Participant/Trainee Support Costs Grant line
  • Participant Support costs should follow the F&A rate per the sponsored award (usually unallowable or a capped amount)

Participant Support Costs Categories


A stipend is a set amount paid directly to the participant (not WashU employees).

Subsistence Allowance

Subsistence Allowance is the cost for a participant’s housing and per diem expenses necessary for the individual to participate in the conference, these expenses must be reasonable and pertain to the days of attendance.

Travel Allowance

Travel includes the costs of transportation and associated travel-related expenses, and must follow WashU and sponsor guidelines.  The purpose of the trip must be to participate in the conference, workshop, etc.

Other/Participant Related Expense

Other costs in support of the participant’s involvement may be allowable, including training materials or laboratory supplies that can be tied to specific participants.  Includes fees paid on behalf of a participant in connection with meetings, conferences, symposia, etc.

Unallowable Costs

Some common unallowable expenses under the Participant/Trainee Support Budget include (NOTE: some of these expenses may be allowed on the main award):

  • Incentives/prizes, memorabilia, or gifts, unless they are specifically noted and justified in the budget justification and approved by the sponsor.
  • Honoraria or fees paid to a guest speaker or lecturer
  • Conference/workshop support costs such as facility rental, catering, supplies, or media equipment rental
  • Expenses for the PI, project staff, and collaborators to attend
  • Human subject payments for participating in research projects

Please contact Sponsored Projects Accounting if you have any questions about this material.