Types of Costs
Budgets generally include two basic categories of costs:
- Direct Costs – Costs identified specifically with the sponsored project or that can be relatively easily assigned to it with a high degree of accuracy (e.g., salaries, fringe benefits, consultants, equipment, materials and supplies, and travel.) For more about expenses that require special attention in federally sponsored research, visit the ASRSP website.
- Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs – Costs incurred for common or joint objectives and not readily or specifically identified with a particular sponsored project, or any other institutional activity (e.g., building and equipment depreciation, operations and maintenance, costs of University’s libraries, and general supplies.) For more information, refer to Facilities and Administrative Rates and Use of On-campus vs. Off-campus F&A Rates.
Items to Consider When Developing a Budget
- Northwestern policies and procedures, which set forth the University’s cost accounting standards and provide important frameworks for budget development and the overall management of sponsored projects
- Federal policies, including the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards
- Sponsor policies, such as the NIH Grants Policy Statement or the NSF Grant Proposal Guide
- Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or solicitation
- Project scope of work
Sponsors may impose limitations on a project budget’s total costs (such as a total funds-per-year ceiling), the direct costs (such as a salary cap or maximum travel costs) or the F&A costs. The solicitation and sponsor guidelines as well as university policies should be reviewed with regard to those limitations.
The unobligated balance is that portion of the funds authorized by the sponsor for expenditure under a Notice of Award (NoA) that has not been obligated by the end of a budget period.