Budgeting Guidelines

Budgeting Guidelines

‌We have recently updated the Teachers College (TC) budget templates to reflect the latest fringe benefit rates as well as anticipated tuition increases. The latest versions are dated 9.2019. All rates embedded in the template are up to date. Please use only this version. Also, the instructions and the material in the notes have changed considerably so please review them carefully.

Each item below corresponds to a common line item in most grant budgets.

Proposals and Grants

For use with NSF, USDOE and other Federal Sponsors.

Federal Grant Budget 

For use with NIH research grants ONLY.

 NIH Grant Budget

For use with New York State and Government training grants (Restricted Rate 8%).

Training (NYS & GOV) Grant Budget

For use with private sponsors such as foundations etc.

Private Sponsor Budget

For use with international sponsors/governments.

International Sponsor Budget

General Budgeting Guidelines

The 9-month contract leaves the three summer months available for faculty to devote 100% of their effort to grant-related work. The three months of the summer are equal to 1/3 of the academic year, so summer salary is capped at 33% of the institutional base salary. Each month of summer salary is equal to 11% of their institutional base salary.

Faculty may also do grant-related work during the year. A faculty member may elect to "buy out" of teaching (more formally known as "course release") to work on a sponsored project at a rate equal to 15% of the base salary for each course released. If a faculty member performs work on a sponsored project in addition to his or her normal duties at the college during the academic year, he or she may draw overage compensation. TC policy caps overage at 20% of institutional base salary.

Per TC policy: Compensation on Sponsored Agreements

Institutional Base Salary does not include supplemental payments (one-time or recurring), administrative supplements, and/or compensation for overage/summer overage. 

The maximum annual compensation a faculty member may draw from TC and external sources combined is 33% summer salary and 20% overage calculated from their institutional base salary. Excess amounts over 53% must be rebudgeted for other staff/other expenses.

NOTE: The NIH sets an annual salary cap. Effective January 1, 2024, total compensation for individuals receiving funds from NIH and institutional sources may not exceed $221,900. If a faculty member's annualized base salary exceeds this amount, the lower amount must be used.

Grant budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF) require that salary requests be expressed as person months calendar. No more than 2 months' salary may be requested for any one individual on one grant.

Other professional staff at TC work on 12-month contracts and are not (in general) entitled to overage payments, so their salaries are far simpler to calculate. For professional staff currently on the TC Payroll, request salary for such individuals as a flat percentage of their current Institutional Base salary.

It's frequently the case that staff positions named in a grant proposal budget will only be created if the grant is funded, in which case we have to estimate what each position's Institutional Base Salary will be. Below is a list of position categories frequently included in grant budgets with a salary range for each.

All personnel working on the project must adhere to TC's HR policy regarding the Hybrid & Flexible Work Arrangement policy. Hybrid & Flexible Work Policy

Senior Research Scientist/PostDoc: $60,000-90,000

Project Director/Business Manager: $55,000-80,000

Project Coordinator/Data Collection Coordinator/Statistical Coordinator (doctoral level): $30,000-55,000

Project Tech Support, Network Engineer, Web/Multimedia Designer: $60,000-680,000

Secretary/Clerical Staff: $30,000-50,000

As of 1/1/19, the college has codified specific types of support for graduate students:

  • Doctoral Research Fellowships: 

    Doctoral Research Assistants (DRA 6442): provide modest support to Ph.D. or Ed.D. students who are engaged in research under the direct supervision of a faculty member. Fellows receive a salary and tuition points, mainly funded by an external grant with a small contribution from the College. Only recipients of the DRA are eligible for this type of employment. DRA's work 9/1-8/31 - full fiscal year.

    • Students must be registered for at least twelve (12) credit hours (or the equivalent) during the academic year. Enrollment is not required to maintain DRA through the summer.  DRAs may work up to 20 hours per week and earn between $25,000 and $35,000 each year.
    • DRAs cannot hold another position except Course Assistant (CA).
    • DRAs receive up to 24 points per academic year that will appear as part of their financial aid package after each term's add/drop period ends.
    • Total hours per week on average for all part-time positions simultaneously cannot exceed 27.
  • Graduate Research Assistant (GRA 6422) Works 15 hours/week and earns a minimum of $4,500-$9,000 per semester (15 weeks Fall/Spring - 12 weeks Summer). Eligible for 3 points tuition waiver per semester. 

    GRA performs academically relevant research and will receive a salary and tuition points.

    • Must be registered for at least six (6) credit hours (or the equivalent) during the semester(s) of employment.
    • Fall and Spring GRAs typically work 15 to 20 hours per week for 15 weeks each semester.
    • Summer GRAs must work with a faculty member or an instructional staff member on campus during the assistantship appointment. They work 25 hours per week for up to 12 weeks.
    • GRAs earn anywhere from $4,500 to $9,000 per semester. The salary is taxable and is paid according to the payroll schedule.
    • GRAs may receive up to nine (9)  tuition points for the academic year, but they cannot receive more than three (3) points per semester. These scholarship points will appear on the student's financial aid package.
    • Total hours per week on average for all part-time positions simultaneously cannot exceed 27. 
    • Part-time hourly and part-time professional lines may also be used to support graduate students.

Part-time hourly and part-time professional lines may also be used to support graduate students.

Teachers College's fringe benefit rate: effective 9/1/2023-8/31/2024:

FY2024: for all personnel except DRAs & GRAs - 41%

FY2024: for DRAs (6442), GRAs (6422), and Interim Student (6452) ONLY - 8.1%

TC renegotiates its fringe benefit rate every year.

FY23 COLA - 4%.

We budget 4% for the out years, although NIH does not allow COLA in their budgeting.

This is not a guaranteed percentage. It is budgeted for in the event it is granted by the College.

OTPS Expenses

Subcontracts are budgeted when a project requires collaboration with another institution to fulfill its objectives. Usually, one institution takes the lead on the project, and issues one or more subcontracts to collaborating institutions. Each collaborating institution prepares a budget according to its own salary formulas, fringe benefit and indirect cost rates and submits it to the lead institution with a letter from an institutional official committing to do the work on the project should the grant be funded. Different sponsors have different requirements as to how much detail of each subcontract budget they need, so consult the program guidelines.

TC investigators who plan on submitting a proposal as a subcontractor to another institution must still submit their proposal budget for internal routing.

Consultants are individuals outside of TC with skills or expertise necessary to the conduct of a project, but whose involvement is more limited in time or scope than a subcontractor. Consultants are often engaged on a project to perform statistical analysis, to evaluate research design or program outcomes, or to serve in an advisory capacity to a project. Most of the time, we don't know exactly who will be engaged as a consultant on a project. 

PLEASE NOTE:  The IRS sets rules as to who may be paid as a consultant.  The determination as to whether a particular individual can be paid as a consultant or must be paid as an employee is made just prior to the start of work.  There are no sponsor rules requiring that a given individual working on a project must be paid as a consultant; if an individual is determined to be an employee prior to hiring, that individual must be paid as an employee, with associated fringe benefit and indirect cost rate charges, regardless of how funds are budgeted in the grant.

Noncompliance in this area can lead to severe IRS penalties, so the Offices of the General Counsel, Purchasing and Payroll are extremely diligent in ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations.

 Most research grants budget funds for travel, for the Principal Investigator and other project staff, to present and attend conferences. Travel requests of this type should be kept relatively low, no more than $1000-$2000 per year.

Sometimes extensive travel is an integral part of the project, for example, when data collection takes place outside the NYC area or when collaborators work at a distance from one another. To budget in such cases, take the number of individuals who will be traveling, estimate the total number of trips per year each will have to make, and use the Web to get a sense of current airfares and room rates at the locations in question. Local travel should be budgeted on the travel line as well.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) : If you are proposing for in-person research/data collection you may want to build PPE costs into the Materials section of your budget.  See the link for current pricing:  PPE Expenses

Equipment means tangible personal property (including information technology systems) having a useful life of more than one year and a per-unit acquisition cost which equals or exceeds $3,000.

This means that most computing, software, low-end A/V equipment, etc., should go on the supply line with items such as toner cartridges, office supplies, etc., rather than on the equipment line. At TC where we aren't doing research in the physical and health sciences that require major specialized equipment, servers and high-end video equipment are most frequently found on the equipment line.

 We generally budget desktop computers at $1500 per unit (unless we know for certain a higher-end model will be needed). Generally, we request at least one desktop computer for the graduate assistants working on the project to share, as well as one unit for each full-time professional (exclusive of faculty) who work on the project. Requesting a laptop for a project can strike a sponsor as frivolous (unless it's clearly justified), but there is nothing to prohibit you from purchasing a laptop once funds are awarded.

Once again, the web can help you obtain reasonable estimates for supplies and equipment.

PSC means 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 employees) in connection with conferences, or training projects. 2CFR200.75

Most grant applications do not include a specific line for tuition for your graduate assistants; we usually place it on a line marked "other."

Tuition for the 2024-2025 academic year is $2,049 per credit.

The budget accounts for a 4% annual tuition increase.


Most grant budgets routinely request $300-$500 per year for each of these items. If you can anticipate the need for software upgrades or other routine maintenance expenses, they should go here as well. Your telephone budget should increase if you anticipate needing more lines than you currently have available, if you will be conducting telephone surveys or will be making significant long distance calls. Postage should be increased if you are conducting a mail survey or plan on doing mass mailings as part of the project.

Indirect Costs (IDC)

Teachers College has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate of 43% on Modified Total Direct Costs.

9/1/2022 - 8/31/2025

Not all federal programs will accept our negotiated rate. If a program sets a different rate, please print the guidelines for the reference of the Grants and Contracts Accounting Office. You may budget according to the rate set by the sponsor. Federal Training programs cap indirect costs at 8% of total direct costs, as do most programs from NYSED. 

Most private sponsors publish policies on indirect costs. TC policy is to request the maximum amount of indirect costs allowed under the sponsor guidelines. If a sponsor's indirect cost policy caps the rate at less than 15%, TC requires documentation of that policy at the time of internal routing. 

TC's standard IDC rate for US-based, private, grant-making foundations is 15% of total direct costs when the sponsor has no published IDC guidelines.

TC's standard IDC rate for proposals to all non-US based funding sources (foreign foundations, governments, and NGOs) and for performance-based, work-for-hire type contracts is 39.6% of total direct costs. Proposals requesting IDC in amounts less than 39.6% of total direct costs require approval from the Provost and Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Most sponsors set limits on the amount in funds you may request in a given proposal. These budget ceilings must be met by adjusting the direct costs of the proposal budget. Indirect costs may never be waived simply to meet a budget ceiling. There may be certain, limited circumstances when indirect costs may be waived. Formal requests for a Waiver of Indirect Costs should be submitted to the Associate Dean no later than two weeks prior to the deadline date.

A related issue is cost-sharing. Applicants should be aware that, according to federal regulations, cost-sharing may only be a consideration in the evaluation of a grant application if the program guidelines require it. Including cost-sharing in a grant proposal that does not expressly request cost-sharing will not help your proposal.

The current budget climate at TC means that we will be looking at proposals that do require cost-sharing with particular scrutiny. All applicants are responsible for obtaining commitments to meet the cost-share prior to the submission of the application.

Budgeting needs to be a collaborative activity between the PI, project staff, and OSP. Project staff should decide what its needs are for a given proposal; OSP can perform released time/overage, summer salary, fringe benefits, and indirect cost calculations if you make your request at least one week prior to the sponsor deadline.

An issue that arises frequently during the budgeting process concerns the appropriateness of particular budget items. The NSF usually funds up to two months' salary per faculty investigator on each award, which faculty may take as released time, overage, or summer salary. This is a reasonable rule of thumb for applications to other agencies as well, though the scope of a particular project can often make a request for more time entirely appropriate. This is especially true with NIH, which routinely makes multiyear awards in the millions of dollars. Beyond that, there are not many hard and fast rules about budget requests. Agency program officers can provide important guidance in this area. Keep in mind that program officers are extremely reluctant to discuss budget issues independently of programmatic issues and therefore will always want to discuss the budget with you as the investigator rather than the director or other administrators. Most often, program officers provide investigators with guidance in demonstrating that an unusual budget request is warranted by the objectives of the project. Program officers are happy to provide this guidance and will usually be direct in letting you know if a particular budget request is a deal-breaker or not.

How the budget affects the chances of a proposal's ultimate success or failure is the source of much anxiety on the part of applicants. Reviewers are typically asked to evaluate if the applicant has identified sufficient resources to conduct the project as described, and at this point, coming in too low can hurt your chances just as much as coming in too high. Our indirect cost and fringe benefit rates, etc., will not factor in at this stage of the process. These issues begin to matter when the peer-review process has concluded and program officers have to choose among proposals given equal priority ratings by the review panel. Even so, it is not automatically true that funds will go to the proposal that comes in at the lowest cost. Many other factors come into play at this point, including granting funds to investigators whom the sponsor has supported before, supporting minority investigators and/or institutions (if stated as a priority in the request for proposal or RFP), and spreading benefits out over a wide geographical area. Remember that Federal agencies and private foundations are not profit-driven enterprises. If they have a budget of $15M to give out during a particular funding cycle, they will give out $15M or otherwise lose it. No sponsoring agency operates under the assumption that the way to get the most "bang for the buck" is to distribute funding to as many investigators as possible. If your budget is reasonable in relation to your objectives and contains no obvious padding or unnecessary expenditures, your chances of rejection for budgetary reasons are likely minimal. However, if your proposal received a high priority rating but was rejected for budgetary reasons, the program officer will explain if you inquire. In such instances, you will almost always be given advice about where to cut spending and be encouraged to apply during the next cycle.

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