Direct Costs

Award budgets in Spectrum+ are divided into budget categories based on the budget information in the proposal and including any budget modifications completed in the award negotiations. The budget categories are those used by Georgia State and are not necessarily the same as those required by the sponsored agency. The list below shows Georgia State budget categories and codes associated with each:

Faculty academic salary – PSF000

Faculty summer salary – PLS000

Staff salary – PSS000

Graduate assistantships – PLG000

Misc. lump sums – PLM000

Part-time, Temporary salary (incl. retired employees) - PLP000

Fringe benefits – FBB000

Travel – NTR000

Supplies and materials, postage, P-card transactions, registration fees, subscriptions, other operating expenses, human subjects payments, software, publications and printing – NSP000

Consultation and other professional fees – NCON00

Subcontract #1 – SUB001

Subcontract #X – SUBX01

Stipend fellow participant – NST000

Equipment – NEQ000

Personnel costs should include only University personnel, their roles on the project, titles, the percentage of effort/time each will devote to the project, the rate of pay, the amount requested from the sponsor to support each person per year (or for the entire project period) and the amount of salary cost shared (if required). Collaborators at other institutions should be included either as consultants or within a subcontract budget. Note that administrative and clerical salaries are generally not charged to sponsored projects. However, such charges may be appropriate for some large, complex programs. Please consult OSPA if you are not sure about a particular salaried position.

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, remember to factor in salary increases if the sponsor specifically allows salary escalation. The University has no escalation policy so the sponsor guidelines should be observed.

For salary calculations, use the Salary, Effort, Person Month Conversion Chart to assist you in calculating the following:

  1. Georgia State faculty and staff base salary - Faculty and staff salaries typically are based on a percentage of their total annual effort. Faculty are typically compensated based on a nine-month academic year appointment, although some faculty are compensated based on a 12-month calendar year appointment. Even if a faculty member decides to teach summer school, that does not change their appt. from a nine- to 12-month appointment. Check with your department to determine the correct appointment year for figuring your salary. An appropriate percentage of the academic year or calendar year salary should be specified in the budget. If summer salary is to be requested, see below.
  2. Daily/hourly rates - Some proposal budgets may require that faculty or staff time be reported on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. The number of hours worked will depend upon whether the person listed in the budget is on a nine-month or 12-month appointment. The hourly rate is computed as follows:
    1. Academic Year (nine-month faculty): 9 month salary ÷ 1560 hours = hourly rate
    2. Calendar Year (12-month employees): 12-month salary ÷ 2080 hours = hourly rate
    3. The daily rate would merely take the appropriate hourly rate and multiply it by eight hours. To calculate the weekly rate, multiply the hourly rate by 40 hours.
  3. Nine-month faculty summer salary - For summer salary, a maximum of three months of summer effort and salary (calculated up to 33.33% x 9 month base salary for the current fiscal year) may be requested when this is acceptable to the sponsor. This summer salary must be identified as such in the budget.

Some sponsors have limitations on the amount of salary that may be charged to a grant (not including fringe benefits). The salary cap most often encountered affects all proposals to NIH. The current NIH cap is $185,100. The amount is set by Congress and often changes at the beginning of the calendar year. The salary remaining above the capped amount will need to be cost shared by the department. Salary caps are determined by annualized salary, not the raw amount requested as support. Check with the sponsor or OSPA for current limitations.

  • If a 12-month faculty or other employee’s salary is higher than the current salary cap amount, then you would use the cap amount as their base instead of their true base salary (Current NIH salary caps).
  • The 12 month salary cap can be used to determine the salary cap for a 9 month employee by taking the current salary cap amount, dividing by 12 months and multiplying by 9 (months).
  • The budget justification should note that the salary cap is being used."

Example: PI has annual calendar year salary of $200,000 and requests support for 25% effort on an NIH grant. Because the salary cap is $185,100, the allowable expense is $46,275 (.25*$185,100) not $50,000 (.25*$200,000.)

Must be charged on all salaries.  The rates vary by the type of appointment.  If the sponsor caps its fringe reimbursement below the university rate, the university department will need to provide a cost share account to cover the remaining fringe benefit charges. See the Fringe Benefits webpage for more details.
Occasionally, there will be times when a faculty member may request and receive additional compensation beyond the base salary. This is an allowable direct cost only if the funding agency specifically allows extra compensation, which is rare. Extra compensation must be labeled as such in the budget submitted to and approved by the funding agency. Please note that federal funding agencies and some state agencies do not allow extra compensation during the academic year.

When a proposal requesting extra compensation has been submitted to OSPA, it must include a letter of approval or guidelines from the sponsoring agency specifying that this is allowed. Also, a letter, signed by the person(s) receiving extra compensation, their department chair(s) and their dean, must be attached to the proposal stating that all four of the following conditions of the Board of Regents Policy on Faculty Compensation, (section 8.3.12) for extra compensation will be fulfilled.

  • The work is carried out in addition to a full effort load.
  • No qualified person is available to carry the additional workload as part of his/her normal duties.
  • The work produces sufficient income to be self-supporting.
  • The additional duties must not be so heavy as to interfere with the performance of regular duties.

If extra compensation is not included in the original proposal, extra compensation cannot be paid without seeking agency approval, especially in federal and federal flow through projects. The most appropriate way to request extra compensation as an allowable cost on a sponsored project is to specify this cost in the proposal (subject to the criteria above) in the personnel area, but NOT as a consultant cost. This cost includes associated fringe benefit of 31.5% (current full time employee fringe benefit rate subject to change).

In order for extra compensation to be approved, it must be included in the proposal and the awarded budget or approved by the awarding agency in writing after the receipt of the award and a letter from the dean’s office must ensure that all four conditions of the BOR Policy above are met. These requests are approved only in cases where the above requirements are met. Please note that federal funding agencies and some state agencies do not allow extra compensation during the academic year.

Even if extra compensation has been approved as an allowable cost, certain federal criteria must be followed in that the “consulting” must be across departmental lines or the work involved is at a separate or remote location. In addition, extra compensation may not be paid from state funds nor can a university employee get extra compensation as a consultant on a sponsored project awarded to Georgia State.

A graduate research assistant (GRA) is an internal Georgia State designation and may be assigned research duties each semester or on a monthly basis, whereas graduate fellowships are awards by external sponsoring agencies. For both of these, Georgia State has specific policies on pay or stipend rates and on tuition waivers. Graduate student pay / stipends have a different fringe benefit rate than other salaries (see F &A Rates webpage). See Georgia State's Graduate Assistant Policy and Graduate Fellowship Policy for other details.
These are payments to students and include scholarships, fellowships, financial assistance grants, training grants, or other contributions supporting educational or training expenses. A stipend does not require the performance of services, and by definition, an employment relationship does not exist. Stipends generally are not allowed except for training grants or if specifically approved in the award document.
A consultant (also known as an independent contractor) is an individual or organization capable of providing a service not available at the University. Consultants are normally engaged for short periods of time to provide professional services that do not provide direction to the project scope of work. Note that some sponsors limit the rate at which consultants can be paid and consultant costs are not excluded from the F&A calculation.
In addition to meeting all other policy requirements, 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.

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 in the current schedule of allowable travel rates set by the University and within the GSU 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.

  • Domestic travel - Domestic travel on most sponsored projects accounts is subject to the University's Institutional Travel Policies and Procedures. In some instances, however, the funding agency may put forth more restrictive travel regulations. In those cases, the agency's regulations must be followed. For example, some federal agencies limit reimbursement for meals and lodging to the federal per diem rates. Georgia State uses the federal government CONUS rate for meals and lodging for cities located in the United States. Also see the State of Georgia travel regulations.
  • Foreign travel - Because of federal and certain funding agency regulations, OSPA should be contacted as far in advance of foreign trips as possible to ensure that you have fulfilled all of the requirements for foreign travel as a Georgia State employee and in order to be properly reimbursed. Key information about foreign travel and foreign per diem rates can be found on the U.S. State Department website.

Fly America Act: For international air travel, federal requirements state that American carriers be used when a traveler is flying between the U.S. and another country or between other countries to the maximum extent possible. Convenience and/or expense are not considered appropriate reasons for not using U.S. carriers. Foreign travel paid from federal contracts and grants requires advance approval by Grants & Contracts Accounting and often the sponsoring agency.

Information to assist in developing costs for planned domestic or international travel can be found at GSU Travel Services and International Travel Tool Tips.

These expenses 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 overhead and can be specifically justified for the project.

Computer equipment (under $5k unit cost) and other kinds of multiple use materials can be purchased on a grant in this category (not as equipment), but must be justified as essential and allocable to the project.

Capital equipment needs should be itemized and justified. Most sponsors rely on the University's definition of "capital equipment" to differentiate between equipment and supply categories. Georgia State University defines "equipment" as any item of non-expendable, tangible, personal property having a useful life expectancy of two or more years and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit. Equipment under $5,000 should be categorized under operating supplies.

Equipment needs must be itemized and justified in the proposal budget. In addition, the PI must determine that the equipment requested is not already available within the institution. The cost of equipment generally includes needed accessories, installation, and delivery costs (costs for annual service contracts for maintenance and repair should come under miscellaneous costs – see below). In some cases the sponsor may provide the equipment directly rather than provide acquisition funds or a short-term rental may be preferred. Permanent equipment costing more than $5,000 is not included in the base amount for calculating F&A (indirect) costs for a proposal.

Fabricated Equipment is constructed by combining or assembling modular components and/or materials into one identifiable unit is referred to as fabricated equipment.  When completed, each component loses its individual identity and the end product becomes an identifiable single unit. Typically such equipment is made or designed in-house for a specific purpose. In order to be capitalized, the finished product must have a unit cost of $5,000 or more and a life expectancy of more than one year.

Computer Equipment (under $5k unit cost) and other kinds of multiple use materials can be purchased on a federal grant, but would be considered supplies and materials---not equipment---that need to be justified as essential and allocable to the project.

Georgia State has a specific policy regarding the use of university equipment in off-campus locations that should be reviewed before proposing to do so. See Off-Campus Use of Equipment Policy.

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, participant support, repair and maintenance of equipment, rent and utility expenses, animal services, communication costs, tuition, and some types of telephone service.