Proposal Budgets: Robert Morris University Proposal Budgets | Robert Morris University

Research Support

The proposal budget is a crucial part of the funding process. Decisions made during the development of the budget have important implications for the proposed activity. The University has adopted a number of guidelines that will be helpful in the budgeting process.

This section provides information and guidance for preparing research proposal budgets including salaries and wages, fringe benefit rates, indirect cost rates, and matching funds/cost sharing. 

Salaries and Wages
In general, faculty and faculty administrators (collectively, “faculty members”) engaged in funded research cannot receive compensation in excess of their contracted salary rates. In addition, the University will not seek salary reimbursement for any amount exceeding actual faculty salary payments. This principle also applies to summer salary: faculty members' (and administrators') compensation received during the summer through grant funded research may not exceed the monthly compensation they receive during the academic year. For purposes of this section, salary includes both teaching salary and stipends for administrative work.

Faculty and faculty administrators may receive additional compensation for (and sponsoring/funding agencies may be asked to reimburse) funded research and scholarly activity that will be carried out in addition to and at times that would not normally be part of the administrators' workload or work days (e.g., evenings, weekends, holidays or vacation days). The compensation for this activity will be fixed on a case-by-case basis and will be subject to approval by the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies.

For purposes of determining funding, there are three different categories of individuals: Faculty and Faculty Administrators, Undergraduate and Graduate Research Assistants, and Other Professionals.  Salary and wage reimbursement for each is described in the following subsections.

Faculty Members’ Salary
There are three types of faculty and faculty administrators (called faculty members in this section) with different performance periods based on the performance times specified in their contracts:

1. Faculty members who are on nine-month contracts: These faculty members do not have any special administrative assignments. The academic year performance period for these faculty members is September 1st through May 31st. The summer performance period for these faculty members is June 1st through August 31st.

2. Faculty Administrators who are on nine-month contracts but have special administrative assignments: Their performance period is also September 1st through May 31st.  The summer performance period for these faculty members is June 1st through August 31st.

3. Faculty Administrators who are on twelve-month contracts: The performance period for them is June 1st through May 31st.

The following steps should be used to compute funding agency reimbursement for release time for each faculty member who will provide grant funded services – for each performance period during the research or scholarly activity:

1. Determine whether the faculty member’s contract is 9 or 12 months
2. Calculate the faculty member’s monthly salary based on the faculty member’s contract period.  Define this as the “monthly salary” amount, “S”
3. Determine the number of months in the performance period.  Define this as “M”.  For faculty administrators on a 12 month contract who will be providing services for the full year M=12.  For faculty members on nine month contracts who will be providing services during the entire academic year M=9.  For nine month contract faculty members who provide services during the fall semester only or during the spring semester only M=4.5.  For faculty members on nine month contracts who provide services during the entire summer M=3
4. For each project time period, determine the proportion of the faculty member’s time that will be involved in the funded research or scholarship. Define this proportion as "P".
5. Compute the amount “A” of grant funded reimbursement for faculty member’s salary for each project time period by multiplying the monthly base salary “S” by the number of months in the project period ”M” by the proportion of the faculty member’s time “P”.  Thus: A = S * M * P   -- for each project time period.
6. The total salary release reimbursement for a particular faculty member during a research project or scholarly activity will be the sum of specific amounts for the faculty member for all the time periods included in the research project. 

Requests for salary and administrative stipend reimbursement for multi-year research and scholarly activity will include an estimate for annual salary and administrative stipend increases using an annual increase percentage of 4.0% according to the RMU Faculty Contract. 

The percentage of the faculty member’s total time that is devoted to research or scholarly activity during each project time period is used to establish both workload (usually course teaching) reductions and to define the amount of reimbursement that will be sought from sponsoring/funding agencies.  The “Percent Effort in Project Period” (P) that falls into the academic year on a grant is referred to as the “Faculty Release Time Reimbursement (FRRT)”.  The FRRT is used in determination of course reduction based on the following guidelines:

• At least 25.0% Effort in Academic Semester but less than 50% = One course reduction
• At least 50.0% Effort in Academic Semester but less than 75% = Two course reduction
• At least 75.0% Effort in Academic Semester but less than 100% = Three course reduction

Under normal circumstances, the total number of course reductions for nine-month contract faculty members, including grant funded course reductions and course reductions granted for other reasons, should not exceed three course reductions per academic semester. 

For twelve-month contract faculty administrators, the total of course reductions granted should not exceed four courses per year. Special exceptions may be made if approved by the individual’s Department Head, Dean and the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies.

The “P” during summer months is used to determine direct faculty compensation for summer work for nine-month contract faculty.  The “P” can be as much as 100% during the summer months so that the proportion of effort, P, can be as high as ‘1’. Accordingly, nine-month faculty and administrators can earn up to one-third of their salary during summer months.

The proportion of administrative (not course reduction) time that may be spent in participation in funded research or scholarly activity by twelve-month contract faculty administrators’ will be determined on a case by case basis with approval of the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies.

Undergraduate and Graduate Research Assistants
Undergraduate and Graduate Research Assistants are students enrolled in programs at Robert Morris University.  For purposes of research and scholarly activity, funding the wages of Undergraduate and Graduate Research Assistants are calculated based on a nine-month "performance period." 

The level of any student's effort for grants and other internal employment commitments (e.g. work study) should not exceed 20 hours per week during the fall and spring semesters.  During the summer, students' grant research work and other University work commitments may be as much as 40 hours per week if they are not otherwise enrolled in classes -- up to 20 hours per week if they are so enrolled. 

Amounts charged for Graduate Research Assistants who are working 20 hours per week are computed as follows:
  • Fall or Spring Semester: (GTR * 9 credits) + $2,250
  • Summer Semester: (GTR * 6 credits) + $1,500
Where GTR is the Graduate Tuition Rate per credit and the room and board amount is $2,250 representing $500 per month for 4.5 months during the fall and spring semesters and $1,500 for 3 months during the summer semester.

When a Graduate Research Assistant works less than 20 hours per week (on average) during a semester, the amounts charged shall be pro-rated based on the proportion of 20 hours that the Graduate Research Assistant works.

The amount for Undergraduate Research Assistants is to be computed based on the hourly rates paid to Undergraduate Research Assistants.  The rates vary based on University classifications.  During budget preparation, the principal investigator should contact the Career Center to determine applicable rates and should include these rates in the budget for Undergraduate Research Assistant salaries.

Other Professionals’ Compensation
Any professional included in the proposed research or scholarly activity who is not a full time faculty member or student, whether or not an employee of the university, will be included in the category of “other professional.”  Examples include laboratory technicians, assessment experts, and clerical staff, part time faculty and faculty and students from other universities whose services will be provided under contract. Salary and wages for these individuals will vary with terms of their contract for services with the University. 

In the case of other professionals who are University employees, the project budget should include a documented estimate of the employee’s compensation that will be attributable to time spent on the research or scholarly activity.  Generally, any such research or scholarly activity should be considered to be part of the employee’s duties and should not result in additional compensation for the employee. The employee will be compensated if the research or scholarly activity requires the performance of services to be outside of the employee’s regular workload.  Such cases must be approved, on a case by case basis, by the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies in consultation with the employee’s supervisor and other appropriate University administrators.

Fringe Benefits
All requests for external funding for research or other scholarly activity that seek reimbursement for salary shall also include a request for reimbursement for fringe benefit payments connected with those salary payments.  For purposes of developing the project budget these fringe benefits will be computed as a percentage of the salary reimbursement described above using the following rates:

Faculty or Faculty Administrator Academic Year Salary (nine-month contract): 30%
Faculty or Administrator Summer Salary (nine-month contract): 8%
Faculty Administrator (twelve-month contract): 30%
UG/G Research Assistant (academic year): 8%
UG/G Research Assistant (summer): 8%
Part-Time Faculty: 8%
Other professionals – full time University employees:  30%
Other professionals – part time University employees: 8%
Other professionals – not University employees per contract

FICA, 7.65% will be budgeted if the faculty compensation is involved instead of salary reimbursement.

Indirect Costs
Indirect costs are those costs associated with maintaining the infrastructure of the University that support research activities, public services, and instructional functions.  Indirect costs are built into a research proposal budget to cover these costs.  To the extent that sponsoring and funding agencies are willing to reimburse indirect costs, the project budget should include them.

The University has an indirect cost agreement that has been negotiated with the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The rates listed below are valid through May 31, 2020, and will be negotiated again no later than November 30, 2019.

The Indirect cost rates are applied to “Direct Total Salaries and Wages” including all fringe benefits.  This sum includes the following budget items:

a) Faculty Direct Payments
b) Faculty Release Time Reimbursement
c) Other Professionals’ Salaries and Wages
d) Undergraduate/Graduate Students payments

The negotiated indirect cost rates are:

a) On-Campus rate: 35.7% of Total Salaries, Wages and Fringe Benefits
b) Off-Campus rate: 17% of Total Salaries, Wages and Fringe Benefits

The “On-Campus Rate” is used when all activities are performed in facilities owned by Robert Morris University. The “Off-Campus Rate” is used when all activities are performed in facilities and not owned by Robert Morris University and to which rent is directly allocated to the project(s). If more than 50% of a project is performed off-campus, the off-campus rate will apply to the entire project. The “Training Rate” is used for any grant proposal involving training of internal or external individuals, including workshops, seminars, and short courses.

Distribution of Faculty Release Time Reimbursement and Indirect Cost
Faculty Release Time Reimbursement shall be allocated 50% to the School’s operating budget in which the investigators are appointed  and 50% will be allocated to Academic Affairs.

Indirect costs shall be allocated 40% to the Dean’s Fund of the School in which the investigators are appointed, 20% to Business Affairs and 40% to Academic Affairs.

Matching Funds/Cost Sharing/ Reporting Costs
Some funding or sponsoring agencies may require matching funds from the University or cost sharing at different levels in support of the proposed project. These may vary from in-kind matching to capital contributions.  In some cases, matching funds may be restricted to external partnerships. Any commitments for matching funds or cost sharing on behalf of Robert Morris University must be approved by the Department Head, Dean, and the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies and prior to budget preparation and the proposal submission.

In-kind matching funds or cost sharing might include facilities, equipment, professional employee time, research assistant and faculty time. All cost sharing items must be shown on the research budget, including internal and external commitments.

In addition, some funding or sponsoring agencies may require reports or audits prepared by professionals external to the University. In such case, where possible, the project budget should reflect these costs.  If the funding or sponsoring agency does not provide funding for the reports or audits, the commitment to provide the reports or audits must be discussed with the Assistant Provost for Research & Graduate Studies and Financial Operations prior to submission of the grant application.

2 For example, consider a faculty member who has a nine month contract (N=9) for $54,000 per year (B=$54,000) who provides 50% effort to the funded research project during the academic year and 100% effort for three months in the following summer.  The faculty member would receive workload reduction for two courses each semester to perform the research and would conduct the research full time during the summer.  The monthly base salary (S) for the faculty member would be $6000 (S = $54,000/9).  There would be two project time periods, the academic year where M=9 and the summer where M=3.  The proportion of effort (P) during the academic year would be 0.5 and during the summer would be 1.0.  The salary release reimbursement requested for the academic year (A) would be S*M*P = $6000*9*0.5 or $27,000 and the amount requested for the summer would be S*M*P = $6,000*3*1.0=$18,000.  The total amount of grant funded reimbursement for this faculty member would be $27,000 + $18,000 = $45,000.
3 In the case of multiple investigators from different schools this amount shall be distributed in proportion to the work levels of the researchers as specified in the grant application.
4 In the case of multiple investigators from different schools this amount shall be distributed in proportion to the work levels of the researchers as specified in the grant application.