Preparing a budget can be the most intimidating aspect of a proposal, but with your input, ORSP can prepare it for you. To begin, it should support tasks in a well-defined scope of work. The tips below explain some common budget categories.

Fringe benefits

The fringe rate for full-time staff salaries and faculty academic-year salary charged to a non-federal grant is 28.4% and part time is 18.4%. The fringe rate for full-time staff salaries and faculty academic-year salary charged to a federal grant is 26.1%; part time with benefits is 18.4% and part time without insurance is 10%. For faculty summer salary and temporary employees, the rate is 10%. Fringe benefits are not calculated for graduate and undergraduate students.


In some disciplines, faculty are expected to pay for color graphics in publications and reprints and must include these costs in the budget. In addition, funds should be included to cover open access fees for publications that charge them.


Unless the sponsor does not allow it, tuition should be requested in every budget that includes at least 1 semester of a graduate student’s time. The amount budgeted is based on a percentage of full time graduate student tuition ($38,650) each fiscal year. The percentage used is based on whether the budget is less than or equal to/greater than $100K in modified total direct costs per year. Consult Graduate Student Tuition in Sponsored Projects for more information:

Indirect costs

Also called overhead or F&A, indirect costs should be requested in every budget, unless forbidden or limited by the sponsor. The Reynolda on-campus rate is 45.5% of modified total direct costs (MTDC). MTDC excludes equipment, tuition, and the portion of all subawards over $25,000.  The off-campus rate is 20% of MTDC.

Modular budgets

Certain NIH budgets must be aggregated in $25K modules. A detailed budget must also be attached to the routing form for internal use and should equal the amount requested in the modular budget. A modular budget justification lists project staff, their percent of effort, and role on the project and explains any differences in the number of modules between years. Provide no other information. These NIH programs consider a detailed budget noncompliant.

Be sure to follow sponsor guidelines when formulating your budget. Some costs may not be allowable; some may not be allowable as direct costs except under certain circumstances; for example, office supplies, postage, and clerical salaries. These costs must be specifically justified in a Cost Accounting Exceptions Form.

NSF policy specifies that cost share, or matching, should not be included unless required; this policy may hold for other sponsors. If the sponsor asks you to cut your budget, and you cannot still perform the scope of work, ask to reduce or modify it before requesting cost share.

If you’re still not sure about what or how much to include in budget categories, talk to colleagues who have external funding. Finally, if you are collaborating with another institution, including WFUHS, be sure someone at that institution prepares a budget and submits it to ORSP on the appropriate forms.

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