One West University Boulevard, Brownsville, Texas 78520 | 956-882-8200

Office of Sponsored Programs

Sponsored projects

Sponsored projects involve the request for support by an external sponsor, public or private, that satisfy the following criteria:

  • A specific program of work or research is proposed to or required by the sponsor;
  • The sponsor requires an authorized institutional signature;
  • The sponsor requires or expects one or more progress reports, a final report, financial reports and/or a formal accounting of how the funds were expended;
  • There are intellectual property, confidentiality and/or publication conditions associated with the receipt of funds.


Gift, grant or contract?


A gift is defined as any item of value given to the University by a donor who expects nothing of significant value in return, other than recognition and disposition of the gift in accordance with the donor's wishes. In general, the following characteristics describe a gift:

  • No contractual requirements are imposed and there are no "deliverables" to the donor. However, the gift may be accompanied by an agreement that restricts the use of the funds to a particular purpose.

  • A gift is irrevocable. While the gift may be intended for use within a certain timeframe, there is no specified period of performance or start and stop dates.

  • There is no formal fiscal accountability to the donor. There may, however, be annual or periodic updates sent by the Office of Development that may be thought of as requirements of good stewardship, and, as such, may be required by the terms of a gift. They are not characterized as contractual obligations or "deliverables."


A GRANT is defined as an award mechanism to transfer money, goods, property, services or other items of value to universities in order to accomplish a public purpose. In general, the following characteristics describe a grant:

  • No substantial involvement is anticipated between sponsor and recipient during performance of activity

  • The award comes with terms, conditions, and/or other contractual requirements that need to be met.

  • There are budgetary restrictions that must be followed.

  • Reports may be required including financial reports and technical or progress reports.

  • Documentation of expenditures.

  • Deliverables of any kind, including the sharing of research results.

  • There is a start and stop date.

  • Authorized University Official must transmit and/or sign.


A CONTRACT is defined as a binding agreement between parties for the purpose of
securing goods or services. In general, the following characteristics describe a contract:

  • There is extensive input from the sponsor into the tasks to be performed.

  • The award mechanism used by the sponsor is a contract

  • Principal purpose is to acquire property or services for direct benefit or use by the sponsor.

  • The sponsor considers the award a “procurement”.

  • The sponsor requires formal reports of any kind, including financial or technical

  • Invoicing or billing is required.

  • The contracting mechanism has terms and conditions such as

  • Ownership of intellectual property or curriculum

  • Right of first refusal, or right of first negotiation of intellectual property developed at UTB.

  • Ownership or access to research results.

  • Publication review of faculty, graduate student or post doc research.

  • Private or non-public meetings, seminars, or other forums in which I will transfer research results to the Company

  • Deliverables of any kind.

  • There is a start and stop date.

  • Authorized University Official must sign the awarding document.

Gudget information

The Budget

Preparation of the budget is, for many researchers, the most challenging section of the proposal. Granting agencies see hundreds of proposals yearly and are proficient at comparing the level of funding requested to the research work proposed. Therefore, it is important that the budget section of the proposal reflect, as accurately as possible, the funding needed to carry out the proposed research.

Grants or contracts requested and received from the federal government are subject to some restrictions, which are governed by OMB Circulars A-21, A-110, & A-133.

Circular A-21

Establishes principles for determining costs applicable to grants, contracts, and other agreements with educational institutions.

Circular A-110

Standards for obtaining consistency and uniformity among Federal agencies in the administration of grants to and agreements with institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other non-profit organizations.

Direct Costs

Salaries and Wages

Total salaries and wages, paid for the persons who will work on project compose the majority of sponsored project budgets costs. Time may be shown in terms of person-months or as a percent of full-time effort. Show the breakdown between summer and regular academic year.

  • The Principal Investigator (PI) may not schedule activities in excess of 100% of effort in any given month. 
  • Sponsored activities may not result in any employees receiving compensation at a rate in excess of their authorized  salary. For multi-year projects, plan for estimated salary increases in the budget.
  • Compensation levels and new job classifications must be cleared with the Business Office and Human Resources. It is normal to include budget increments for personnel on proposals extending more than one year. If specific increment figures are not available, estimate at 3-4% per year.
  • The maximum use of graduate students is encouraged. Graduate student payments must be consistent with those customarily paid within the department or college and are not to exceed the allowable rate established by the Office of Graduate Studies and Human Resources. Part-time (hourly-monthly) employees must be identified either as students or non-students.
  • Undergraduate students may be used on a research project; however, the budget justification should clearly explain the scientific or technical contribution of this position to the project. Otherwise, federal agencies may regard the inclusion of undergraduates in the same manner as administrative and clerical personnel.

    NOTE: As per university policy, if a Principal Investigator is compensated 100% for any month(s) during the summer, he/she may not engage in any compensated consultant activities.

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits cover costs as appropriate for social security, retirement, insurance, and unemployment compensation. The following fringe benefit rates are approved for use on grants:

            Full-time employee 30%
               Part-time employee 10%

               Overload/Adjunct/Summer 17%



Paid consultants may be justified when the project calls for special expertise for a fixed period of time. By definition, consultants are not employees of UTB/TSC. Budget consultants only for tasks where on-campus expertise does not exist or is not readily available. Consultants costs may include a fee plus travel expenses. Sponsors may not permit payments to consultants or limit such payments. If in doubt as to the allowability of consultants or rates paid to consultants, consult the program guidelines or the program officer. Whenever possible, identify the proposed consultant by name, indicate the number of days of work, and provide a curriculum vitae for the consultant in the proposal. Fringe benefits are not calculated for consultants. 

Capital Equipment

Capital equipment is generally defined as personal property having an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more and a useful life of at least one year. Budget all the equipment that will be needed to perform the proposed tasks including the estimated costs of freight and installation.  Many sponsors will not support the purchase of general purpose office equipment. See later sections for accounting and disposal of grant purchases.

Expendable Supplies

Sponsored projects often consume expendable supplies such as laboratory items, instructional aids, and office supplies. A reasonable amount should be budgeted for these items; however, investigators should be aware that federal regulations no longer consider office supplies as an allowable direct cost, except in very limited and specific circumstances.

Publication Costs

Budget the anticipated cost of publishing the results of the research, keeping in mind that page charges may vary from journal to journal. Consider both page charges and reprint costs.

Sub-Recipient Agreements and Subcontract Awards

Sponsored research funded by awards made to the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College is usually conducted by UTB/TSC employees on the premises of the University.  On occasion, however, some of the goods or services necessary to do some or all of the work, may need to be obtained from other institutions, companies, or individuals (third parties). In order to determine which regulations and procedures apply to the procurement of these goods, services, or work, it must first be determined whether a sub-recipient or a subcontractor (vendor) relationship exists between UTB/TSC and the third party.

Sub-recipient Agreements. A sub-recipient is an institution, company or organization that receives financial assistance that is passed down from a prime sponsor. The responsibility of a sub-recipient is to help UTB/TSC meet the requirements of that award, and a sub-recipient's performance is measured against meeting the objectives of the prime grant or contract. The portion of work being performed by the sub-recipient constitutes a significant component of the research program. The sub-recipient performs a substantive piece of an award made to UTB/TSC and fully collaborates in the scientific execution of the project.

If a proposal includes an intended sub-recipient agreement, there must be a proposal from the sub-recipient to include with UTB/TSC's proposal that will be submitted to the prime sponsor. The sub-recipient's proposal typically includes a:

a. Statement of work;

b. Signature by a designated official of the sub-recipient institution. On specific agency forms or on an institutional letter of commitment. The institutional signatory is someone who is authorized to commit the sub-recipient's resources toward completion of the project.

c. Representations and certifications, when required by the agency;

d. Disclosure of current and pending support, when required by the agency; and

e. Curriculum vitae.

Subcontract Awards. A subcontract is awarded to a vendor providing goods or services related to the objectives of UTB/TSC's prime award. A subcontract is recognized as a procurement contract for goods or services. Typically a vendor provides the goods or services within normal business operations, provides similar goods or services to many different purchasers, and operates in a competitive environment. Subcontracts are subject to the application of UTB/TSC's full indirect cost rate for every period in which the subcontract is in effect. Additionally, if a project has multiple subcontracts to different vendors, each is subject to the application of UTB/TSC's full indirect cost rate.


Most sponsors will pay travel costs, if requested. Reimbursement for travel expenses is subject to University (HOOP Section 10.5.1 to 10.5.6) and sponsor regulations. Itemize each proposed trip and include cost estimates for transportation costs, number of days of travel, and per diem.

Other direct costs 

Consider, as appropriate, costs for copying, long-distance telephone calls, reference books and materials, equipment maintenance, and library search services.

Matching funds/cost-sharing

Some agencies require matching funds and/or cost-sharing. Matching funds are normally defined as cash (e.g. a percentage of the cost of a piece of equipment), whereas cost-sharing is usually in the form of contributed time and effort by the Principal Investigator and his/her associates. All requests for matching funds must be approved in advance by the Principal Investigator's Department Chair and/or Appropriate Director/Division Head, Dean.

Indirect costs

The University’s current negotiated Indirect Cost Rate with the Department of Health and Human Services, effective through August 31, 2008 is as follows.  Please use the agreed rate until amended.

Indirect Cost Rate for UTB/TSC:

  • 50% (salary only, not including fringe benefits)

Indirect cost funds reimburse the University for laboratory and office space; utilities; administrative services (e.g., purchasing, accounting, administrative personnel, security); custodial services; and building, grounds, street and parking lot maintenance. In other words, they include all those things essential to support sponsored activity which cannot be broken down and directly charged to a specific grant or contract.

There are some organizations, by regulation, which do not allow or limit indirect cost recovery. If the proposal is being submitted to such an agency, provide reference to the program announcement which describes limits on recovery of indirect costs.

Application resources


Some sponsors request pre-proposals in order to conduct a preliminary review of applications. Those pre-proposals favorably reviewed are selected to develop a full proposal.

Faculty or staff forward pre proposals with documented support from their Dean or program director to the Office of Sponsored Programs.  OSP will then officially submit the pre-proposal on behalf of the University.


Persons Authorized to be Principal or Co-Principal Investigators/Project Directors or Co-Project Directors

When the University accepts a grant or contract from an external sponsor, the University assumes responsibility for the proper performance of the stated project, for the fiscal management of the funds received, and for accountability to the sponsor.

Because the institutional responsibility for meeting these obligations is vested in the Principal Investigator/Project Director, individuals in the categories shown below are routinely authorized, as described, to be Principal or Co-Principal Investigators/Project Directors or Co-Project Directors for sponsored projects.

* Administrators

* Tenure or Tenure-track faculty

* Postdoctoral Fellows

Employee follows with at full-time appointment and who have a mentor with a faculty appointment who has agreed in writing to supervise the sponsored activity.

* Visiting Professors

Full-time employee may apply as a Co-PI/PD if application is in partner with a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.

* Students

May serve as a PI/PD provided a University faculty member agrees to serve as the Co-PI/PD and account manager for the project and accepts responsibility for ensuring the reporting requirements and deliverables are met.

 *Full-time Staff

May serve as a PI/PD or Co-PI/PD provided the appropriate administrator of the University unit through which the work will be conducted accepts responsibility for the proper performance and management of the project.

If you wish to request PI/PD or Co-PI/PD status for an individual other than those in the categories above, submit a written request, which should include a vita and a statement regarding the individual’s qualifications to serve as a PI/PD or Co-PI/PD on the proposed project.  Requests for PI/PD or Co-PI/PD status must be routed through the Department Chair, Program Director, Dean, and/or Vice President for approval. 

Note: If the funding agency has more restrictive requirements regarding who may serve as a Principal Investigator or Program Director on proposals, these requirements supersede this policy.

Notice of Intent to Apply

Faculty and staff may post a Notice of Intent to Apply for External Funding on the Sponsored Programs website. Those who are interested in applying for the same opportunity are encouraged to coordinate their efforts when only one application will be accepted by the sponsor. In the case of competing applications, the Provost’s Council will review each proposal to determine which one best serves the university’s strategic plan. Applications to private sources (i.e. foundations, donors) are to be coordinated through Institutional Advancement.


For comments and questions, please contact the Webmaster.