Participant Support

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What is participant support?

Participant support costs are direct costs for items such as stipends or subsistence allowances, travel expenses, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees (but not employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects.  They are allowed on most federal grants, but are most common on grants from NSF. Since guidelines vary from sponsor to sponsor and from program to program, it is important to refer to agency and program-specific guidelines.

Who is a participant?

A participant is an individual who is receiving a training opportunity at a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information-sharing activity funded by a sponsored award.  Cornell employees may not be considered participants.  A participant does not perform work or services for the project or program other than for their own benefit, and is not required to deliver anything or provide any service to the university in return for these support costs.  However, their participation in the training opportunity must be documented; the SRAC has a template you may use for this documentation, or you may use another method such as a sign-in sheet.

What can be charged to participant support funds?

Prior approval must be obtained to reallocate participant support funds for other purposes, so it is important to carefully consider the types of expenses you will incur for your activity.  Participant support costs may include the following:

  • event registration fees
  • stipends (predetermined amount regardless of actual cost) for housing or subsistence allowances
  • travel costs
  • lodging and meal expenses paid to the event facility (if the payment is made on behalf of the participant)
  • meals and incidentals when in travel status.

What can not be charged to participant support funds?

While they may be allowable on the grant in other budget categories, participant support funds may not be used for:

  • travel or other expenses for Cornell employees
  • expenses that support the event rather than the participants (such as meeting room rentals, AV equipment fees, expenses for speakers who aren’t otherwise participating in the event or activity).