Frequently Asked Questions
This page is currently under development--for more information on these topics (or if you have topics you'd like us to add), contact your Grants and Contracts Specialist.
When it comes to sponsored programs who is responsible for what at GVSU?
That’s a great question! Sponsored programs work can be very complex. It requires many skilled specialists in several offices to support our faculty and AP personnel in this work. What’s more, because all sponsored-project proposals are submitted on behalf of and all resulting awards are made to GVSU, it is crucial that appropriate institutional officials support and approve all such work that is undertaken at GVSU. With that in mind, we have created a Sponsored Programs Matrix of Responsibilities to document areas of responsibility for Principal Investigators (PI), Departments, Colleges, the OSP, University Business and Finance, and other relevant functions and personnel.
What is fringe? What is indirect cost?
"Fringe Benefits," sometimes just called "Benefits" or just "Fringe," are additional funds that must be added on top of salary or wages requested on a grant proposal. Fringe is meant to compensate the university for the benefits associated with your employment, like health insurance. Fringe is calculated as a percent of the salary requested to be paid from the grant based on your employee classification. Fringe rates change every year, for the latest rates visit the Business and Finance website. Also note that fringe rates are pre-loaded and into the our budget estimating spreadsheet, which will also apply them correctly and automatically. The budget estimating spreadsheet can be found on our Forms page.
For example, if your salary is $50,000 and you request 10% of your time in a year to be devoted to a grant and have a 40% fringe rate, the amount of fringe that must be requested in addition to $50,000 x 10% = $5,000 of salary would be equal to $5,000 x 40% = $2,000 of fringe.
Indirect costs are defined as costs associated with an externally sponsored project that are not directly allocable (in other words, not devoted entirely to) your project, like electricity and heat. GVSU has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate of 41% of all salaries, wages, and fringe charged to a grant. This rate must be applied to all externally funded projects, with only two exceptions: if a sponsor limits the indirect costs that can be applied to a grant (does not require a GVSU waiver) or if you are granted permission by the university to waive indirect costs (requires a waiver and is granted in only in the rarest of circumstances). It's important to note that federal guidelines require the negotiated rate to apply ALL externally-sponsored projects, even those that are not federal, when allowed by the sponsor.
In the example above, there is a total of $5,000 (salary) + $2000 (fringe) = $7,000 salaries and fringe. In ordinary circumstances, $7,000 x 41% = $2,870 of indirect costs must be also be budgeted. Remember, though, that the budget estimating spreadsheet, found on our Forms page, does all of these calculations for you!
How do I get a course buyout?
A single course buyout in one semester is allowed if 25% of a persons salary plus associated fringe is bought out by the grant in one semester. A single course buyout for the entire year (one course in each semester) is allowed if 22% of a persons salary plus associated fringe is bought out by the grant in one year.
If your salary is $50,000 and your fringe is 40% and you want a course buyout in the Fall semester, that would cost $50,000/2 x 25% x 1.40 = $8,750.
Under the same conditions, if you want a course buyout for the entire year (Fall and Spring semester both), that would cost $50,000 x 22% x 1.40 = $15,400.
Note that under normal circumstances, indirect costs will be applied to these salaries and fringe, so the true cost of a course buyout is the requisite amount of salary plus fringe plus indirect cost.
What is time buyout and how is it different from a course buyout?
Any reasonable amount of time can be bought out by a grant, but if the amount of time is less that 25% in one semester or 22% in a year as described above, your teaching load will remain the same a you will not have a course buyout. If you commit 10% of your time to a grant in one year, for instance, it is assumed that will replace a portion of your significant focus time, and is not enough to excuse you from teaching a class.
How can I come up with $X of match?
Seeing a large match requirement can be intimidating, but it might be easier than you think to come up with that amount. Committing time to the project without asking for reimbursement from the budget is a common way to commit match to the project. If a sponsor limits indirect costs, the difference between what they allow and what GVSU normally charges (called forgone indirect costs) can be counted as match. If you have multiple sponsors for the same project, they can often be considered match for each other as well. There are other ways also, including getting cash commitments from your dean's office or other interested parties at GVSU. Finding match is often a combination of a number of these methods, your Grants and Contracts Specialist can help acquire and track match!
Should I work with the Tech Commercialization Office or OSP? What about University Development?
To put it simply, contracts pass through TCO, grants are handled by OSP. Some foundation proposals will be submitted through University Development. If you plan to apply anywhere but to state or federal governmental agencies, you will need to complete a Funding Clearance Request Form and submit it to OSP. OSP will then tell you if you will be working with OSP or UD, within a few days to a week, by routing this form through University Development and the Vice Provost for Research Administration.
Whats the difference between a grant and a contract, and why does it matter?
It's important to note that even if you think you know whether a project will be considered a grant or contract, it's important to contact OSP or TCO to confirm.
Contracts: are fixed price (you get $X when you do Y, regardless of how much it actually costs to do Y), an agreement in which you are fulfilling a need of the agency that is paying you (agency needs 10 training videos made, or 100 samples run), an agreement in which an agency does not require expenditure detail.
Grants: are cost-reimbursed (you are reimbursed for what was actually spent in a period of time, regardless for what was accomplished in that time), typically in response to a Request for Proposals (RFP), often require details on what money was spent on.