15.7 Undergraduate Student Salaries Charged to Sponsored Projects

States Stanford’s commitment to provide research-related experiences for undergraduate students and describes how indirect costs are applied to the salaries of those students.


Questions about this policy can be answered by:

Kenneth Merritt

Director of Research Administration and Compliance

Vice Provost and Dean of Research

1. Overview

Undergraduate participation in faculty members’ research activities not only enriches students’ education, it can provide them with a persuasive introduction into academic careers.  With more than 5,000 active sponsored research projects, Stanford offers many opportunities for our undergraduate students to participate in research that pushes at the frontiers of human knowledge.

In December, 1990, former Dean of Research Robert L. Byer announced that indirect costs would be waived on all Stanford undergraduate students’ salaries charged to sponsored projects, as an incentive for faculty to increase undergraduate participation in research.

Due to a change in Federal regulations, Stanford University will no longer waive indirect costs on undergraduate student salaries. Instead, upon request, Stanford will provide a financial incentive through the office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Research to encourage meaningful undergraduate participation on sponsored research projects.

This incentive recognizes the importance of integrating teaching with research.  Undergraduate assignments should be designed to ensure that the students have meaningful research experiences and that their participation constitutes a legitimate contribution toward the work statement of the project.

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2. NSF Exception

Please note that in most cases undergraduate support should be treated as salaries. However, in the specific case of the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates, NSF has agreed that payments to undergraduates may be in the form of stipends, i.e., student aid, which is outside the MTDC base and not subject to indirect costs under normal University policy. On most other sponsored research projects, however, payments to undergraduate students should be treated as a salary item, with indirect costs applied.

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