Sample Grad Student Budget Assignment


Units are expressed as hours, days, months or as an academic or fiscal year, depending upon the type of employee. Employee salary compensation rates change annually as of October 1. See this page for assistance in calculating salaries. 

Be aware that NIH / HHS agencies have a salary limitation.

While multi-year budgets are typically developed with a 3% salary increase, actual increases follow Montana Board of Regents determination. 

Key/Senior Personnel

For each PI, Co-I, or Project Director, list name, title, amount of time to be spent on the project and what s/he will accomplish.

Example: Dr. Jones will serve as principal investigator and will commit 2 summer months of effort to this project and will be responsible for... A 3% salary increase has been budgeted in out years.

Other Personnel

Include Research technicians, postdoctoral researchers, Graduate & Undergraduate research assistants, etc. When known, list name, title, amount of time to be spent on the project and what s/he will accomplish.  

Per 2 CFR 200.413(c) of the Uniform Guidance, charging administrative or clerical salaries may be appropriate only if 1) the services are integral to the activity, 2) individuals are specifically identified with the activity, 3) the costs are explicitly included in the budget or have prior written approval of the sponsor, and 4) the costs are not also recovered as F&A. 

Example: One post-doctoral researcher will be hired to work on this project. This individual will commit 12 calendar months and 100% of his/her time to this research. The post doc’s primary focus will be on... A 3% salary increase has been budgeted in out years. Sam Student will work as a graduate research assistant for this project and will commit 12 calendar months per year and dedicate 100% of his time during the 9 months of the Academic Year and 50% of his time during the 3 summer months to this research. Sam will be responsible for.. A 3% salary increase has been budgeted in out years.

Other Compensation 2 CFR 200.430

Extra compensation

Faculty and employees on professional contracts (e.g., salaried) may be eligible for extra compensation. Extra comp must 1) be identified by person or position in a proposal or otherwise approved in advance in writing, and 2) meet the federal requirements for intra-institution consulting or extra service pay. 2 CFR 200.430 (h)(3) and (4))


Bi-weekly employees who work over 40 hours per week (for 1.0 FTE) are eligible for overtime per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees must seek and secure supervisor approval in advance. The time must be closely recorded via an individual’s time sheet, which he/she signs and supervisor validates.  Overtime can be paid via grant funds as long as there are adequate funds in the salary line.  Written sponsor permission is not required.  Some LOA employees may be eligible for overtime if they are not earning enough to be considered salaried.  If eligible, the process would be the same as that for bi-weekly employees.  See HR's Compensatory & Overtime information or contact HR for more information.

Because overtime is allowable as described above, compensatory time is not appropriate on a sponsored activity. 


Employees may be eligible for a lump sum bonus when exceeding institutional expectations under institutional policy per Human Resource Services. It is not an appropriate mechanism to compensate an individual for working beyond a 40 hour week.  

  1. Faculty - If intra-institutional consulting, refer to extra compensation requirements; if incidental activities, it must be specifically provided for in the award budget or otherwise receive written prior approval. 
  2. Non-faculty - If the activity contributes and is directly related to work under an agreement, and there are adequate funds in the salary line, it can be paid from grant funds. Prior written approval is preferred. 2 CFR 200.430 (h)(8))


Fringe benefits apply to all employees and represent that employer share of fringe benefits including, when applicable: F.I.C.A. (Social Security), retirement, unemployment insurance, health insurance, workers' compensation insurance, and sick and annual leave costs. Contact the ORSP Office for rates applicable to your proposed employees.

 Fringe Benefit Rates

Example: Employee Related Expenses are based on rates approved by the Montana Legislature.


Equipment is identified as any one item  - or one item fabricated from several required components - having a unit cost of $5,000 or more and a useful life of one year or more. Some equipment may be fabricated, i.e., made up of several required components. When such components result in a single piece of equipment, they may be coded to equipment when their individual cost is less than $5K.  

Identify all items of equipment you plan to purchase for the project which the University does not currently have or which otherwise are not available for your use, but which are necessary for the completion of the project. When establishing your equipment budget, allow for inflation price adjustments, cost of freight from the supplier to your facility, and any other costs associated with procurement and installation.  For more information, see Capital Expenditures with Federal Funds.  

Should building alterations or renovation be necessary to accommodate new equipment (including electrical or mechanical considerations) please contact ORSP. 

Example: In order to complete Aim #2, a high power microscopy lens is required. This powerful lens will enable researchers to detect the presence and number of damaged protons. This information will enable faster analysis and reengineering of experiment if required.


Explain the need for travel - how the travel will benefit the project’s aims - and your calculations of travel costs for domestic and foreign travel. Break out by airfare, hotel, per diem, etc. Note that the cost estimates for per diem, mileage, etc. are based on State of Montana information and University guidelines.

Example: Domestic Travel – $XXXX is requested in year 2 for Dr. PI and Dr. Co-I to attend the American Society of Clinical Psychologists annual conference in to share results. This estimate is based on $800 airfare per person, $210 hotel per night per person for four nights, and standard UM per diem rates.

Example: Foreign Travel – $XXXX is requested for Dr. PI to travel to Belize to collect data from Casa Verde Biological Station. This estimate is based on $1500 airfare, $110 hotel per night for 20 nights, and standard UM per diem rates.  (Note:  See additional requirements for foreign travel.)


This category includes standard items to be used or consumed during the course of the project, such as chemicals, glassware, paper products, disks, and copying costs.

Costs can only be charged directly to a sponsor if they can be readily and specifically identified with that project. Costs that are essential to the project’s research and which will be used solely for the project may be budgeted with proper justification, so be as specific as possible. Always explain why purchases are essential to the project’s aims and dedicated only to research on this project.

Example: Materials & Supplies: Test tubes, beakers, chemicals, assay kits and lab consumables are required for this project to complete the blood tests and analysis. 


UM's cost of education includes tuition and fees. For budgeting purposes, the line "Tuition" includes tuition and can include mandatory fees and health insurance, if allowed by the program or sponsor.  Opt-out fees are never allowable. It is recommended that "tuition, mandatory fees, and health insurance" be delineated in the budget/budget narrative or otherwise approved by the sponsor in writing. Tuition is paid via a Scholarship mechanism. See Guidelines for Student / Participant Payments. 

Example:  Tuition (including mandatory fees and health insurance) for the graduate student follows established UM practice for the cost of education.  Tuition charges are exempt from Facilities & Administrative costs.

For more information, see 2 CFR 200.466 Scholarships and Student Aid Cost.

Contracted Services

Include here the estimated costs of procurement services to be provided by vendors on a per-sample or other unit-price basis; special testing, professional or consultant services, including travel; or subawards to be issued for a part of the sponsored project activity. The University of Montana complies with institutional and State procurement standards and meets requirements of 2 CFR 200 Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, as appropriate. If unsure with the entity is a vendor or subawardee, refer Determining the Appropriate Type of Subrecipient Agreement. 

For subrecipients, focus on the sub's scope of work and why they were chosen over any other subrecipient. The subrecipient will need to provide the budget justification narrative for his/her own budget. Plan accordingly. These justifications should not be intermingled, i.e., the personnel section should NOT include UM personnel and Subrecipient personnel. 

If you are collaborating with an individual from another organization, firm, institution, or agency, it will be necessary to secure documents reflecting that firm's approval, proposed budget, and assurances of compliance for inclusion with your project proposal. Contact the ORSP Office early regarding minimum requirements.

Example: Subrecipient - Funds are requested for Utah State University to perform all clinical trial work in year 2. Utah State was chosen because Dr. Smith is the leading expert in subject recruitment, evaluation, and retention, and because of his extensive experience with clinical trials dealing with TB strains resistant to antibiotics. A detailed budget narrative for Utah State's budget request is included for reference. 

Example: Vendor - Consultant: John Q. Consultant, CEO of Microbiology Data Inc, will consult with project personnel on an ongoing basis, 3 trips per year, 5 days each in Missoula. She was chosen because of his expertise in X. Dr. Consultant’s compensation rate is $400 per day. Airfare is estimated at $800 per trip. Per diem is estimated at $100 per day. Hotel is estimated at $125 per night.

Other Direct Costs

Include under this heading those cost items that may be unique to your proposed activity, such as: communication costs, computer mainframe use, repair and maintenance costs for equipment, etc.

Items which may be necessary for the successful completion of your project not identified elsewhere but which may warrant consideration for your specific project may include the following:

  • Advertising
  • Aircraft Flight Time
  • Animal Care/Maintenance
  • Art Work/Graphics
  • Audit Costs
  • Bonding Costs
  • Building Alteration/Renovation
  • Conference Room Rental
  • Computers
  • Drama Lighting, sets, etc.
  • Dues/Subscriptions
  • Equipment Rental
  • Equipment Repair/Maint.
  • Equipment Service Contracts
  • Facility/Space Rent or Lease
  • Freight/Shipping
  • Hazardous Waste Removal
  • Instructional Aids
  • Insurance
  • Legal Fees
  • License/Permits
  • Memberships
  • Participant Support
    • Stipend
    • Transportation
    • Per Diem Allowance
    • Books
    • Tuition/Fees
  • Printing/Binding
  • Professional Fees
  • Proposal Costs
  • Publications
  • Recording Devices
  • Recruiting Costs
  • Reference Materials
  • Release Time
  • Relocation/Moving
  • Report Production
  • Reprints
  • Royalties
  • Scientific Apparatus
  • Service Contracts & Agmnts.
  • Utilities

Life as a graduate student isn’t always easy, but it’s worthwhile (even if it doesn’t always feel that way).

After researching what seemed like a million and one graduate student blogs, the following list was compiled with the common themes present in the daily lives of graduate students.

Read the below to get a laugh, relate and realize that others know what you’re going through.

1. Your meetings with professors are scheduled at the most inconvenient times imaginable. So what if my wife is in labor?

2. Lonely office hours – do students even utilize these anymore?

3.Your life can be summed up in one word: research.

4. The impossible balance between research, school and studying.

5. Trying to remember what you ate today…or was that yesterday?

6. The boredom between courses and qualifying exams…even though you should be studying.

7. As soon as you get a moment to relax, somebody says “thesis” and it’s over.

8. Neglecting to speak out loud for an entire day because your reading took over.

9. Your social life consists of people debating serious issues and philosophical concepts.

10. You consider caffeine to be your favorite food group. The only down side is the twitching and involuntary body movements you now experience regularly.

11. All of your household surfaces are mere extensions of your desk.

12. Carefully grading undergraduate work that never gets picked up by the student.

13. Working wherever, whenever. Your books and laptop are basically tethered to your body.

14. Weekends are no longer filled with fun and excitement. They now contain dread mixed with piles of text.

15. The panic that sets in when you scheduled a task that doesn’t involve school.

16. Looking forward to the week because you only have one 20-page paper to write.

17. Realizing you must choose between sleep, school and a social life. School wins.

18. Being so exhausted that you don’t even have the energy to try to sleep.

19.You actually get excited when you get books for a new semester.

20. Your excitement is short-lived because you realize they don’t fit on your IKEA bookshelf.

21. You start questioning if your life is “normal,” due to eleven-plus hour workdays with no breaks.

22. It’s increasingly difficult to continue a discussion after a person makes a comment you disagree with.

23. You avoid your dissertation advisor like a debt collector since you still haven’t finished the task at hand.

24. Your bucket list consists of making friends outside of grad school, in hopes to maintain some degree of normalcy.

25. Answering the same student questions via email repeatedly.

26. Simple pleasures in life, like purchasing a plant or dry-clean only shirt, become “too much of a commitment.”

27. Feeling as if you’re having a nervous breakdown, then wondering if you’re technically too young to have a nervous breakdown. Better Google it, just in case.

28. Spelling the simplest words suddenly becomes difficult.
It’s m-u-s-e-a-u-m, right?

29. You’re actually grateful when an illness coincides with your schedule.
Thank goodness it was the weekend and I didn’t have to miss class!

30. You either have a million things to do or nothing to do – never a healthy medium.

31. You’ve got a grad school speech ready for when you meet new people: your field, what you study and what you plan to do with your degree.

32. You actually begin to miss having homework during holiday breaks.

33. You feel like a fake and wonder when the other members of academia will catch on and kick you out of the program.

34. Constantly checking your email and, when nothing arrives, demanding someone nearby double check the Internet is working. It is.

35. Your basic human priorities that were once eat, drink and sleep are now replaced with papers, books and due dates.

36. Your thoughts are no longer simplistic – you only have two response modes for conversation: verbal thesis or completely tongue-tied.

37. You give yourself pep talks in your head and one day you catch yourself doing it out loud, in public.

38. You’re constantly trying to come up with clever comebacks to annoying questions regarding grad school. Isn’t it expensive?What kind of job can you even get with that degree?

39. Speaking to people outside of grad school becomes difficult because you now use words that are not applicable to daily life, like “hegemony” or “praxis.”

40. Over-thinking has become a hobby of yours.

41. Anxiety ensues when you’re on break because you keep feeling like you’ve forgotten to do something, even though you haven’t.

42. Rewarding yourself with mundane tasks once you’ve completed a paper, like putting your laundry in the dryer. How exciting!

43. Planning your day around one simple task or errand that you never actually accomplish.
I guess I can do that tomorrow…

44. You now find weird or unfunny things hilarious, like making up ridiculous hypothetical situations involving other students or your professors.

45. Trying to figure out if you aren’t eating regularly because you’re broke or because you’re too busy. You settle on the fact that it’s a combination of the two.

46. You feel fantastically brilliant one moment, which is short-lived because you feel dumb-as-a-rock the next.

47. The professor you want to learn most from seems to dislike you and only you.

48. You realize you have so many books overdue at the library that the fees require a payment plan. Then you remember the ridiculous amount of debt you’ve acquired to attend graduate school and have a mini panic attack about both situations.

49. Trying to figure out what a dissertation actually is while you’re trying to work on one.
You then console yourself with the fact that nobody else seems to know, either.

50. Realizing your work is valuable and the process was worthwhile, even after you’ve been repeatedly critiqued, rejected and denied by countless scholars, publications and departments you respect.

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