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Tuition on Grants


Comply with federal and university requirements for permitting tuition remission payments from grants for graduate students.

Generally, PI's seeking external funding for graduate research assistants are encouraged to include a request for tuition costs (including differential & fees), when allowed by the sponsor. By extension, tuition benefits/remission may also be used as cost share.

Specific colleges/units may require a request for tuition costs on proposal submissions, when allowable. Investigators should check with their reporting unit to determine if tuition reimbursement needs to be requested as a direct cost on eligible proposals.

Departments can calculate an estimate of tuition costs using Financial Services Tuition Estimator.


Principal Investigators (PIs) and administrators developing a sponsored project budget or managing award funds.

The PI and department should be aware that a sponsor may ultimately disallow tuition as a direct expense despite the University's best efforts to comply with their requirements. PI's and departments will be responsible for reimbursing the University in the event of a disallowance. It's important to weigh the risks.

Instructions/Interim Guidance

  1. In order for tuition to qualify as a direct grant expenditure or as cost share, the following criteria needs to be met: Review sponsor instructions to determine if commitment of cost sharing is mandatory and if so, at what level.
    1. Sponsor Approval: The sponsor must allow tuition as a direct cost or cost share, or through other written confirmation.
    2. Employment: A student receiving tuition on a grant must:
      1. Be a University of Utah employee with a portion of their work time committed to and paid from the grant via salary/stipend, and;
      2. Be assigned to the grant. The amount of tuition (as a percentage) that can be paid by the grant must correlate to the percentage of available work effort the student is assigned to provide on the grant.

        Example: If a student is committing 20 "work" hours per week to a grant and is being paid for that work from grant funds, that student's available work effort is attributed at 100% to the grant (see effort reporting below) and consequently 100% of their tuition can also be paid from the grant. If a student is working on the grant for 10 hours per week equating to 50% of their effort, only 50% of their tuition can be paid from the grant. If a student is working 10 hours (50%) on grant X and 10 hours (50%) on grant Y then 50% of the student's tuition can be charged on grant X and 50% on grant Y.

    3. Budgeting:  All proposals seeking external funding for graduate research assistants may include a request for tuition costs (tuition remission), except when the sponsor's guidelines or policies expressly prohibit recovery of tuition. Faculty and departments are responsible for estimating the tuition amount allocable per student for each grant. See detailed rates. Please be aware that dissertation/thesis credit hours will be charged at 33% of the standard tuition costs, for PhD students only, as determined by the graduate school. Master's students are not eligible for the tuition reduction related to dissertation/thesis hours.

       The budget range for a full-time resident graduate student (RA) for FY20 would be between approximately $2,277 and $4,761 per semester. Common scenarios include:  

      • 12 student credit hours (SCH) of classes (no dissertation): $4,761
      • 9 SCH of PhD dissertation only (no classes): $2,277
      • 9 SCH with 3 hours of classes and 6 hours of PhD dissertation: $2,822
        • Tuition costs should be pro-rated accordingly for RA's who are supported for less than a full academic year.

Note: Tuition will normally only be excluded from the F&A calculation when using the modified total indirect cost rate (MTDC).

  1. Effort Reporting: A student will use the current effort reporting system to certify their effort both for their salary/stipend and their tuition remission. The student should complete their effort reporting certification as usual with 20 hours per week equating to 100% of their available work time.
    1. Under federal regulations, tuition is considered a part of a graduate student's "compensation" and may be paid in addition to or in lieu of other forms of compensation in exchange for a student's work.
    2. Graduate student time is normally split between "work" hours and "academic" hours. Generally, graduate students may not work more than 20 hours per week with all other hours considered "academic". All compensated work paid for via sponsored projects is subject to effort reporting requirements.

      Based on the University's current effort reporting system, 20 hours per week for a graduate student will be considered 100% of their available effort.

      Example:A student working 20 hours a week as reflected by their salary/stipend distribution on the PAR would certify that 100% of their available work effort was spent on the grant. While the tuition remission amount will not appear on the PAR, the effort report will impute the compensation for both the work paid via salary/stipend and the tuition remission because the % of tuition from the grant must align with the % of the student's paid work effort.

  2. Tuition Cap: A graduate student's "compensation" is an aggregate total of: salary/stipend, benefits, and tuition. At this point, that total may not exceed $50,004 which is the NIH's postdoc stipend level for 0 years of experience. That cap is based on the expectation that generally graduate students are paid less than postdocs. If the compensation total exceeds this amount then either the stipend or tuition remission provided to the student will need to be capped/decreased. Faculty are encouraged to review this cap with students early in the process.
  3. PI & Department Oversight: The PI/department will be responsible for ascertaining the tuition amount, encumbering the project, and monitoring the expenditures and related work effort. The department will be responsible for documenting those steps and maintaining those records.
  4. Scholarship Administration: Tuition is encumbered against a project via th Scholarship Administration system. The grant project number is included in the chartfield to properly encumber and disperse the tuition remission.
    Depending on circumstances, there will be instances where it is more practical to use a department activity to facilitate a tuition disbursement followed by a cost transfer from the project to reimburse the activity. For example, this method should be used to account for tuition on cost share projects.
  5. Enrollment Changes: The PI and/or department must notify OSP, the Graduate School, and Scholarship Administration when a student changes status mid-project, i.e. leaves the project, school, or otherwise changes their work effort over the course of a budget period. Compensation expenses to a project, including tuition, must accurately reflect the total effort the student works on the project over the period in which tuition remission is provided. Options to manage student enrollment/employment changes will include requiring students to reimburse pre-paid tuition on a pro-rata basis or using department funds to cover cost differences. NOTE: there are no central University funds available to cover unanticipated tuition costs resulting from these kinds of changes.
  1. Graduate student tuition paid for via the University's Tuition Benefit Program may be used as cost share but must follow the same guidelines (above).
    1. The PI is responsible for documenting those expenses.

Date: Effective summer semester 2020.

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Last Updated: 4/29/24