Budgeting and accounting for GRA Tuition

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Making sure that GRA tuition budgeted to sponsored projects is accurate for your unit and any other collaborating unit, alleviates unexpected post award accounting issues.  This week’s blog covers best practices for budgeting and accounting for GRA tuition.

Pre-Award: Budgeting for GRA Tuition

In a previous blog, Budgeting for GRA Salaries, we discussed best practices and had examples for how GRA salaries are budgeted at CSU.  If allowed, tuition and differential tuition should also be included in the budget that includes GRA salaries based upon the amount of effort that GRA will be spending on the project.

200.466 Scholarships and student aid costs.

(a) Costs of scholarships, fellowships, and other programs of student aid at IHEs are allowable only when the purpose of the Federal award is to provide training to selected participants and the charge is approved by the Federal awarding agency. However, tuition remission and other forms of compensation paid as, or in lieu of, wages to students performing necessary work are allowable provided that:

(1) The individual is conducting activities necessary to the Federal award; (2) Tuition remission and other support are provided in accordance with established policy of the IHE and consistently provided in a like manner to students in return for similar activities conducted under Federal awards as well as other activities; and (3) During the academic period, the student is enrolled in an advanced degree program at a non-Federal entity or affiliated institution and the activities of the student in relation to the Federal award are related to the degree program; (4) The tuition or other payments are reasonable compensation for the work performed and are conditioned explicitly upon the performance of necessary work; and (5) It is the IHE’s practice to similarly compensate students under Federal awards as well as other activities.

What is the difference between tuition and diffential tuition?  

Tuition is the per credit cost that all graduate students will be charged for taking classes at CSU. Tuition rates are established each academic year (August – May). 

Differential Tuition are additional costs either by semester or credit hour for specific programs.  Differential tuition is not a stand alone expense, it will only be charged if there is related tuition. Not all programs charge differential tuition. 

Budgeting for Tuition

Tuition is an expense that should follow effort as it is written in the scope of work/project narrative.  If a budget includes GRA salary for a full academic year, you will include two semesters of tuition;  if it includes the salary for only part of the year, you may only need to include tuition for one semester. Unlike undergraduate tuition, graduate tuition is only charged in the Fall and Spring semesters.  If you have a GRA only in the summer months, tuition may not be necessary. 

Resident vs. Non-Resident Tuition

Resident tuition will be used for budgeting.  During their first year of enrollment, the CSU Graduate school will pay the difference between resident and non-resident tuition via the Tuition Premium Program.  It is the expectation that the student will establish residency in their first year.  The Tuition Premium Program will be extended to international students for the duration of their GRA as long as they remain enrolled for minimum credits.

Additionally, look at the proposed start dates for the project to see if current approved rates or current approved rate + an inflation factor are applicable.  It may be a good idea to apply an inflation factor in the first year of your budget if the proposed start date is in the next academic year.  The KR PD budgeting tool has a built-in inflation factor of 8% for subsequent budget periods after Year 1.  The inflation factor would need to be applied by hand in Year 1 if it is deemed necessary.  Keep in mind, some sponsors only allow current approved rates at proposal stage.

Tuition will be exempt from the indirect calculation if your sponsor utilizes CSU’s negotiated, indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA).

Modified total direct costs (MTDC), consisting of all direct salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel and up to the first $25,000 of each subaward (regardless of the period of performance of the subawards under the award). Modified total direct costs shall exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each subaward in excess of $25,000. Other items may only be excluded when necessary to avoid a serious inequity in the distribution of indirect costs, and with the approval of the cognizant agency for indirect costs.

Post-Award: Accounting for GRA Tuition

Tuition and differential tuition are ‘Other’ Direct Costs that are allowable if reasonable, allocable, consistently applied, and allowed on your award.  They should follow the effort of the GRA student paid on that project.  If a GRA works on more than one project (sponsored or other) the tuition should be allocated between the projects in the same proportion as their effort.  If salary needs to be reallocated via a past period distribution adjustment (PPDA), tuition should also be reallocated via a general error correction (GEC).  General fees such as technology charges, transportation fees, and special course fees are not provided to graduate assistants at CSU and should not be budgeted on or charged to a sponsored project.

Tuition paid for by a Sponsor on behalf of a student is considered compensation and will show up for reconciliation under object code 5762 and will be reported to the student via 1098 T each tax year. Tuition is set up each semester for payment on the student’s behalf using a sponsor billing system.  Authorized person(s) in each academic unit will set this up and it will be reviewed by the appropriate Fiscal Officer before it is expensed to the project. 

GRA tuition, other considerations:

Finally, before budgeting for another department or unit, it is best practice to reach out to the college/department contacts and ask if they have any differential tuition for their program.