Budget Development


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Salaries and Wages

For multi-year budgets include 3% - 4% planning increases each year of the grant.  Tenure-track faculty and instructors should build in anticipated promotion increments.

Graduate Students

Graduate students may be employed as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) and in other student employee categories.  GRA positions include a defined minimum compensation and benefits package equivalent to that for Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs), set annually by the Graduate School.  Compensation for other student job classifications varies depending on the nature of the work.

  • Graduate Research Assistantships: GRAs provide financial support to students performing research in furtherance of the university’s academic mission, as well as their graduate education.  During the academic year, GRA positions may be funded quarterly or annually, come with a full waiver of tuition (some mandatory fees are not included), health insurance, and a stipend at least at the level of the prevailing Western GTA stipend.  During the academic year GRA positions come with a fixed stipend and a "full-time” commitment is a maximum of 20 hrs/wk.  During summer, GRA positions may be up to 40 hrs/wk for part or all of the summer, are hourly positions with an hourly rate at least at the level of the prevailing equivalent hourly GTA academic year stipend.  A summer tuition waiver is typically not included.  Principal Investigators need only budget for resident tuition in their proposals; for nonresident students the Graduate School will provide a matching waiver for the nonresident portion of tuition.
  • Other common graduate student employee categories: For some projects it may be more appropriate to employ graduate students in other classifications.  Refer to the Student Job Current Wage Schedule for guidance.  Budgets should also include fringe benefits.

Undergraduate Research Assistantships

Standard undergraduate researcher pay rates vary depending on the nature of the work; refer to the Student Job Current Wage Schedule for guidance.  Budgets should also include fringe benefits. 

Fringe Benefits

Computation of fringe benefits is complex and depends on a number of factors, including type of employee and number of hours worked.  The RSP Budget Template automatically estimates benefits based on the Human Resources Benefits Calculator, but final calculations will be verified by RSP staff. 

Instructional Release ("Course Buyouts")

In some cases grant funds may be used to release faculty from teaching in order to conduct the research program. Course buyouts require prior authorization from your chair/director and dean, and must be indicated on the Proposal Routing Form.  Details on how to compute the cost are provided in the WWU Standard on Faculty Instructional Releases (Course Buyouts). In summary, the per-credit cost is computed as 1/36 of the faculty’s full-time, 9-month year salary, where the number of credits for a given course equates to the credits for that course listed in the University Catalog.  In addition to the salary cost, the grant is also responsible for covering the associated benefits cost and indirect costs.  Below is an example of a 4 credit course buyout.

  • $72,000 AY Salary / 36 credits = $2,000 per credit
  • 4 credits @ $2,000 per credit = $8,000 (salary cost)
  • Total cost = (salary cost) + (salary cost) x (WWU F&A rate) + (benefits cost)

Cost Sharing

For programs requiring cost sharing, consult with RSP on allowable costs.  RSP generally allows only the minimum cost sharing required by the sponsor, and cannot provide voluntary waivers of F&A costs. The university may, with certain restrictions, use a portion of the faculty member’s research effort (salary and benefits) devoted to the project as cost share. Details on how to compute the cost are provided in the  WWU Standard on Calculating Faculty Research Time for Cost Share.  Support staff salaries, use of university facilities or equipment cannot be used as cost share as these costs are already included in the negotiated F&A rate.  Also note that, unless otherwise specified in the applicable program solicitation, NSF prohibits voluntary cost sharing in solicited and unsolicited proposals.

Facilities and Administrative Costs ("Indirect Costs")

"Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs are incurred for common or joint university objectives and, therefore, cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity" (eCFR Title 2-Subtitle A-Chapter II-Part 200-Subpart A-§200.56). WWU's standard F&A rate is negotiated with our cognizant federal audit agency, the Department of Health & Human Services. WWU's current F&A rate may be found in our Indirect Cost Rate Agreement. When writing the budget justification use the sentence: “Western Washington University has a  federally negotiated rate of (insert correct rate) on salaries and wages exclusive of fringe benefits.”

  • Equipment: Tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and cost over $5,000.
  • Travel: When anticipated, travel and its relation to the proposed activities must be specified, itemized and justified by destination and cost. Funds may be requested for field work, attendance at meetings and conferences, and other travel associated with the proposed work, including subsistence.
  • Participant Support Costs: This budget category refers to 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 WWU employees) in connection with NSF-sponsored conferences or training projects.
  • Materials/Supplies: When anticipated, the proposal budget justification must indicate the general types of expendable materials and supplies required. Supplies are defined as all tangible personal property other than those described in Equipment with a cost of $5,000 or less.
  • Publication: The proposal budget may request funds for the costs of documenting, preparing, publishing or otherwise making available to others the findings and products of the work conducted under the grant.
  • Consultant Services: The proposal budget may request costs for professional and consultant services. Professional and consultant services are services rendered by persons who are members of a particular profession or possess a special skill, and who are not officers or employees of the proposing organization. Anticipated services must be justified and information furnished on each individual’s expertise, primary organizational affiliation, normal daily compensation rate, and number of days of expected service. Consultants’ travel costs, including subsistence, may be included.