Definitions and FAQs

Grant Writing FAQs

This guide is intended as a quick reference guide that provides basic information for faculty and staff preparing grant proposals. It complements the Institute for Public Service Grants Handbook, which provides more detailed information. Note that all required forms are available at

University Approval

All extramural grant proposals must be reviewed and approved by University senior staff before submission. Be sure to fill out the Clearance Form for SU Applications to External Agencies, including your department chair's signature, and submit the form to the IPSSP no later than 5 working days prior to the deadline for your grant proposal (10 working days in the case of electronic submissions, such as

Working With Budgets

Purchasing equipment and supplies

  • All purchases should be coordinated through the SU Purchasing Dept. (contact x.1386 or
  • Equipment / supplies costing less than $300 can be purchased by the PI and reimbursed via petty cash within 30 days. Some items cannot be reimbursed via petty cash, so it's a good idea to check with the Purchasing and Contracting Office first. Note that no sales tax will be reimbursed. Sales tax exemption forms are available from the Purchasing and Contracting Office (OM 207). For reimbursement of petty cash you will need to submit a Petty Cash Form including the original receipt to the Grant Accounting office.

Travel costs

    State vehicles should be used when available (within the U.S.). Reserve vehicles online via the Faculty Information System. If you have questions, contact vehicle dispatch at x.1567.
  • Privately owned vehicle (POV) mileage is calculated using the current federal rate of $0.565/mile. Current rate available at:
  • Hotel and meal costs will be reimbursed based on actual expenses shown on original receipts, up to a maximum of the federal maximum rates for lodging or M&IE (meals and incidental expenses) for your destination. In preparing a budget, see the federal rates established by the U.S. General Services Administration available at:

Faculty Salary:

  • Budgeting summer salary:
    Faculty can be compensated for 12 weeks of summer effort in addition to their regular academic year contract. Extramural funding (e.g. research effort) plus university commitments (e.g. summer teaching, other summer contract work) cannot exceed 12 weeks of remuneration per summer. Summer salary for budgeting extramural grants can be calculated:
    • One month summer salary = 1/9 academic year salary.
    • Two weeks summer salary = gross salary for one pay period on 20 pay/year schedule.

Faculty should also consult the PASSHE compensation policy for sponsored activities, issued February 18, 2009, and available from the IPSSP.

  • Budgeting replacement cost (i.e. reassign time or teaching load reduction):
    Reassign time to reduce teaching load during the academic year should be budgeted as replacement costs based on your salary. [Example: Your academic year salary is $60,000 and you are requesting a one-semester, one-course teaching load reduction, which represents 1/8 of your load. Budget (0.125) x ($60,000) = $7,500 plus 35% benefits = $10,125.] If this method is not allowed by the granting agency or not workable in your budget, you may discuss options with the Institute for Public Service and your academic dean.
  • Fringe benefits on faculty salary:
    Fringe benefits are calculated as 35% of salary during the academic year and 18% of salary during the summer.

Hiring students:

  • Basic steps required to hire a student:
    Before hiring a student worker, contact the Financial Aid Office and provide basic information (student name, ID, pay rate, starting date, grant cost center, etc.). You will also need to contact HR/Student Payroll (Belinda Johnson, x1124, Department administrative assistants will put the worker's hours on the system (e-time) in order for the student to be paid. Students will need to submit Time and Effort forms to the Grant Accounting office. Students must have a Social Security number to be employed.
  • Student wages and benefits:
    Undergraduate students are generally paid at the Pennsylvania state minimum wage, $7.25 per hour (from July 2009). Students can be paid higher rates based upon their qualifications as allowable under the guidelines of particular granting agencies.
  • Graduate students hourly rate is $10.00 per hour, this rate may increase based on their qualifications and job requirements as long as allowable under the guidelines of the granting agency.
  • For student workers who are enrolled full-time (e.g. fall and spring semesters), you should only budget 0.3% (.003) to cover the cost of workers compensation. For student workers who are enrolled less than full-time (e.g. summer employment), you should budget for benefits at a rate of 7.653% of wages.
  • Budgeting tuition remission:
    You can budget to fund student tuition (or tuition plus fees) based on actual costs. Tuition in future years is difficult to predict. It is wise to build an annual increase into multi-year grants to cover future increases in tuition cost. Current rates are available at: and Fees
  • Budgeting a graduate assistantship:
    To budget a graduate assistantship position you need to submit the Grant Funded Graduate Assistant Appointment form to IPSSP.

Direct / Indirect Costs:

Direct costs include: personnel, fringe benefits, travel, equipment, supplies, contractual, and some other expenses. Indirect costs include: administrative costs, such as grant accounting and personnel, use of facilities, etc. Indirect costs are normally calculated as 53% of all salary, benefit, and wage costs for on campus programs and 17% for off-campus programs. Some granting agencies require an alternative method (e.g. 8% of total costs, excluding equipment), so it's a good idea to contact the Institute for Public Service (x1251) for assistance with calculating indirect costs.

Matching funds

Many granting agencies require that some percentage of total support come from other sources and refer to these contributions as a match. Consider all opportunities to include in kind matches, such as professional time donated to the project. The university may have funds available for matching costs. Contact the Institute for Public Service (x1251) for more information.

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