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Budgets - Direct Costs

Information and links on direct-cost budget proposals.

Direct costs are costs that are specifically identifiable and which can be charged directly to the contract or grant.

UCSD and the University of California Office of the President (OP) have specific guidelines and procedures that must be followed during budget preparation.

If a funding agency has its own budget guidelines and forms, budget categories and/or terminology may be different than what is used on UCSD forms. Always rely on the requirements specified by the funding agency.

2016 Budget Preparation Rates Quick Reference (PDF) - includes fringe benefit rates, tuition remission rates and indirect cost rates.

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A proposed UC San Diego salary should match the current academic or staff salary schedules for each particular job classification.

It is recommended that a modest escalation of 3% be used for salaries in future years of proposal budgets. Salaries should also include any projected merit increases.

Information needed when preparing the salary for each UCSD employee listed in the salaries category of the budget includes:

  • Name and Payroll Title of the employee. If you know a position will be required but the individual has not yet been identified at the time the proposal is being submitted, indicate To Be Named or TBN in place of the name.
  • Monthly or annual salary, which should be escalated for all applicable cost-of-living and merit increases. Keep in mind that these increases must coincide with the future beginning date of the project or program.
  • Personnel work duties should be discussed in the budget justification.
  • The budget justification should also include a general statement about UCSD salaries such as "Salaries for all UCSD personnel are based upon current University of California academic and staff salary scales."


Fringe benefit rates

Note: Under certain circumstances, the use of composite benefit rates may understate actual costs for employee benefits (e.g., when the majority belong to family dental and health plans). In those situations, or when a more precise measurement of fringe benefit costs is desirable, budgeting the actual fringe benefit costs, expressed as a percentage of salary, would be warranted in proposal budgets rather than the use of composite rates. Should this approach be used, it should be applied consistently to all named employees ("to be named" employees will still require the use of composite rates).

Composite Rates: 7/1/15
Academic Appointee 37.5% 38.0% 38.5% 39.0% 39.5% 40.0%

Staff Employee

45.4% 46.4% 47.2% 48.0% 48.8% 49.6%

Miscellaneous Special Rates: (These rates are not escalated like the Composite Rates above)

Academic Visiting Appointee 12.3%
Academic Summer Salary Appointee – Social Security Coordinated 11.8%
Academic Summer Salary Appointees – Not Social Security Coordinated 4.2%
Postdoctoral Scholar - Employee 21.1%
Postdoctoral Scholar - Fellow 21.1%
Retirees 2.5%
Staff Personnel – Casual with CORE Benefits 10.6% + 6.2% OASDI
Staff Personnel – Casual without CORE Benefits 2.5% + 6.2% OASDI
Undergraduate and Graduate Students – Academic Year 1.0%
Undergraduate and Graduate Students – Summer Months 2.5%

Note: The largest increases from the rates previously published are due to the UC Retirement Plan and Core Health

Fringe Benefit Chart (Excel)

Composite Rates are a weighted average percentage which consist of the following components:

  • UCRS Retirement Contribution
  • Health Plan Contribution
  • Social Security (FICA)
  • Dental Plan
  • Vision Contribution
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance
  • Employee Support Program
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Non-Industrial Disability Insurance
  • Employer-Paid Life Insurance
  • Annuitant Health/Dental Program
  • General Liability Insurance

For more information on benefit rates and componets see the Employee Benefits Rates Blink page. 

The budget justification for fringe benefits should include a general statement such as: "Fringe benefits are calculated at rates currently in effect for the University of California."

Tuition remission

Tuition Remission allows Graduate Student Researchers (GSR) who are employed at 25% time or more during any one academic quarter to be compensated for their tuition and other UCSD student-related fees.

Graduate Student Researcher Tuition and Fee Remission is assessed for each academic month, up to nine months, October through June, that the GSR is proposed to work on the project or program. No assessment is made for the three summer months (July, August, and September.)

Tuition Remission rates are to be applied according to the graduate department of the GSR which, in some cases, may not be the same department as the principal investigator.

There are 4 separate groups or pools of tuition remission rates that are used depending on the GSR appointment location in either:

  • Engineering
  • Physics
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  • General, which is for all other UCSD appointment locations not included in the 3 areas above.

Engineering is further separated into 4 subgroups:

  • Computer Science and Engineering (CSE)
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
  • Structural Engineering (SE)

Calculating tuition remission begins with selecting the appropriate rate from one of the 4 groups or pools, depending on the GSR's department. If the period of performance continues for more than a year, escalate that rate on October 1st of every year thereafter until the ending date of the project or program.

Please Note: Due to some projects or programs beginning in the month of July, tuition remission will be a straight-forward calculation with all 9 months in the same academic year; October through June. However, given that tuition remission rates are escalated every October, and due to some projects or programs beginning in months after the academic year begins, say November or January, the tuition remission calculation amounts will need to be broken up onto 2 separate lines on the UCSD Proposal Budget Form; one line for the amount reflecting the remaining months within the current academic year, for example January through June, and another line for the escalated amount reflecting the months remaining in the new academic year, for example October through December.

The Graduate Division is responsible for the development of policy, rates, and implementation of tuition remission for UCSD.

The budget justification for tuition remission should include the following general statement: "Tuition Remission is calculated at rates currently in effect at the UCSD." 

Tuition Remission Rates

The following table lists the departments within the various Graduate Student Research Tuition-and-Fee (GSRTF) Remission Rate pools and the appropriate escalation that occurs on October 1st of each year.

Campus Area As of October 1, 2016 On each October 1 thereafter increase by...
CSE $2,480 6%
ECE $2,774 10%
MAE $2,425 10%
SE $2,636 6%
Physics $2,282 10%
SIO $2,141 6%
General $2,194 10%


Consultants provide expert advisory or other services for brief or limited periods of time during the period of performance.

Documentation from a consultant should be in the form of a letter that includes his or her name, daily rate of pay (and justification for the rate of pay), number of days, travel costs, and a statement indicating his or her willingness to participate in the project or program.

No compensation may be requested for UCSD employees who serve as consultants on a UCSD project or program.


Equipment is identified as an item of non-expendable, tangible personal property, meaning it can be appraised for value, has an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more, is free-standing or can stand alone, and has a normal useful life expectancy of one year or more.

Items that cost less than $5,000 are not considered equipment and belong in the Supplies and Materials category of the budget.

Each equipment item should be listed individually on the budget form, and their estimated cost should also include sales tax, shipping, and assembly, if necessary.

Please note:

  • Repair/replacement components for equipment, regardless of cost, are not considered to be equipment and should be budgeted in the Supplies and Materials category.
  • Accessories or component parts are considered to be equipment when the acquisition cost is $5,000 or more, and either:
    • The accessory or component permanently increases the value of the existing equipment, or
    • The accessory or component permanently increases the useful life of the existing equipment.
  • Computer software, regardless of cost, is not considered to be equipment and should be budgeted in the Supplies and Materials category.


  • If a piece of equipment is to be fabricated rather than purchased, the cost of its components plus all materials, supplies, and services from outside vendors or authorized internal recharge activities used in the fabrication process are considered equipment costs if title is retained by the University and the item has a useful life expectancy of more than one year.
  • Department labor, travel, or other operating expenses associated with the fabrication (such as salaries of Principal Investigators, graduate student researchers, or other comparable personnel who participate in the fabrication process) are not included in the acquisition cost of the item.


  • If it is being leased with an option to buy, it is considered equipment.
  • If it is being leased/rented with no intention to buy, it is not considered equipment. 

The budget justification for equipment should describe each item and its need for the completion of the project. Include the estimated cost of the equipment, based on a catalogue, website, or other vendor quotation.

Supplies and materials

Supplies and materials should be listed separately and include sufficient justification.


Each trip should be specfied in the budget justification with:

  • The specific destination and purpose of trip, if known
  • The number of people travelling
  • The mode and cost of transportation
  • Airfare costs
  • Hotel costs
  • Ground transportation
  • The number of days of per diem and the per diem rate

Travel intended to cover costs of bringing participating outside consultants to UCSD are to be budgeted in the Consultant category of the budget.


Both the direct and indirect costs for the subaward site appear on UCSD's budget page and are considered to be direct costs to UCSD.

In addition, the entire grant proposal that was prepared by the subaward site and approved by their contract and grant office would also be required as confirmation of their participation in the proposed project or program.

Follow the funding agency's written guidelines. Specific agencies may require a detailed subaward budget and justification from each proposed subawardee. The subaward site's information should generally be addressed by the UCSD PI as to why the subaward site is necessary and what part of the work they will be performing on the UCSD budget justification page.

The budget justification include the name of the subaward site, their total costs, and a general statement about what aspect of the research they will be performing and how their participation will benefit the project or program.

Please Note: Work that is contracted on a fee-for-service/vendor-contract basis is not considered to be research and should be budgeted in either the Consultant's category or Other Expenses category. To determine whether the work is a subaward or vendor contract, see Subaward or Vendor Contract Decision Guide (Word file).

More information about subawards.

Other expenses: Miscellaneous costs

Miscellaneous costs may include:

  • Publication expenses
  • Human subject payments and travel
  • Service contracts for equipment maintenance
  • Other campus recharge services
  • Annual software licenses, as opposed to software purchases
  • Rent or lease costs for off-campus non-UCSD owned space

Each miscellaneous cost should be listed separately and include sufficient detail in the budget justification. 

Other expenses: Next Generation Network (NGN)

For more information and NGN Communication User Rates see the Next Generation Network (NGN) Blink page.

How to present the NGN Costs in a Proposal Budget/Line-Item Category:

  • The cost may be designated as communications/computing.
  • In the budget justification, it is suggested that the following be utilized: "Communications/Computing costs have been included for telephone and associated voice and data communications charges which are directly related to the individuals working on the project."
  • If a sponsor requests further information about the NGN costs, please contact your Contract and Grant Analyst.
  • There may be a few sponsors who will not allow NGN costs. In such instances, the department MSO/DBO will need to pursue other options for coverage of the cost on a case-by-case basis.

Other expenses: Health Sciences Technology Services Charge -NEW-

Content updated 7/7/2017

This charge is for services to ensure a higher level of security protection for Health Sciences personnel, who are integrated in an environment rich with HIPPA data.

Following are guidelines regarding the application of the HS Technology Service Charge to contracts and grants, based on information available to us at this time: 

  • $108 per month per projected full-time employee (FTE) or fractional proportion based on FTE effort
  • Applies to contracts and grants for researchers operating within the Health Sciences domain, and receiving full-service support from UC San Diego Health Information Services.    
  • Applies to those HS personnel operating at “full-service” locations. “No-Service” locations will not be subject to this charge (Full-Service and No-Services refers to the level of services provided by UC San Diego Health Information Services) 
  • Applies to contract and grant budgets for all sponsors 
  • Include on proposal budgets effective June 5, 2017
  • Applies to contract and grant awards effective July 1, 2017
  • Will not apply to awards from sponsors that do not allow these types of costs as direct charge without advance notification and approval. If a sponsor does not approve, it will be necessary to allocate this charge to other discretionary funds as approved by the Department Chair.
  • Awards where funding is not adequate to cover these charges will be given consideration of a waiver from the Department Chair for these fees, on an award-by-award basis. 
  • Does not apply to General Campus or Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) researchers. For General Campus or SIO researchers collaborating with Health Sciences researchers on projects, the fee will only be assessed for Health Sciences affiliated personnel and will not be assessed on the salaries of non-Health Sciences personnel.

A line item for this charge should be included in proposal budgets and a detailed explanation should be included in the budget justification. For example: 

BUDGET LINE ITEM: HS-TSC (Health Sciences Technology Services Charge)  $$$$


UC San Diego Health Information Services costs have been included to reflect costs associated with the increased level of security required for all personnel within UC San Diego Health, which includes UC San Diego School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and the hospitals and clinics. These charges are directly attributable and proportionally applied for the individual(s) included in the proposed budget on the project.   


UC San Diego Health Information Services (IS) provides mandatory Information Technology Services to all of Health Sciences faculty and investigators, to include costs associated with the increased level of security required for all personnel within UC San Diego Health, which includes UC San Diego School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the hospitals and clinics. To mitigate the specific risk profile of this highly connected environment, UC San Diego Health Information Services ensures that all PIs who IS provides services to, whether they directly access patient information or not, operate in a highly secure desktop, application and server environment with dedicated and highly trained support. Charges are based on percent of FTE working on a grant and are charged on a monthly basis.

These costs are not included in the campus' Facilities & Administration (F&A) rate as an indirect cost. UC San Diego auditors have determined that it is both equitable and consistent with the OMB Circular 2 CFR 200 provisions on cost allocability that the costs be assigned to FTE on grant and contract funds. Accordingly, an allocable portion of these Technology Services costs are included in this proposal as direct project costs.

For questions about the Health Sciences Technology Services Charge please contact Erika Wilson.

Other expenses: Patient care costs

Research Patient Care Costs are the costs of routine and ancillary services provided by hospitals to individuals participating in research programs. The costs of these services normally are assigned to specific research projects through the development and application of research patient care rates or amounts.

  • Routine Services are regular room services, minor medical and surgical supplies, and the use of equipment and facilities, for which a separate charge is not customarily made.
  • Ancillary Services are those special services for which charges are customarily made in addition to routine services, e.g., x-ray, operating room, laboratory, pharmacy, blood bank, and pathology.

Research patient care costs do not include: (1) the otherwise allowable items of personal expense reimbursement, such as patient travel or subsistence, consulting physician fees, or any other direct payments related to all classes of individuals, including inpatients, outpatients, subjects, volunteers, and donors, (2) costs of ancillary tests performed in facilities outside the hospital on a fee-for-service basis (e.g., in an independent, privately owned laboratory) or laboratory tests performed at a medical school/university not associated with a hospital routine or ancillary service, (3) recruitment or retention fees, or (4) the data management or statistical analysis of clinical research results.

The budget justification for patient care costs should include details about the inpatient and/or outpatient costs including the names of hospitals and/or clinics where care will be provided and the basis for these costs.

Use current rates for patient care, special services, tests or treatments. Rates can be obtained by contacting the appropriate UC San Diego business office for the services to be used.

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