University of Southern California


Cost Sharing

Cost sharing is the portion of project or program costs not borne by the sponsor. Cost sharing occurs whenever any portion of project costs is provided at USC’s expense rather than at the expense of the sponsor. For example a sponsor may award $400,000 for research and the school may pledge to contribute $50,000 to buy a piece of equipment needed for the research or a school may agree to charge less than the federally allowed overhead.

Mandatory Cost Sharing is required by the sponsor as a condition of the award and is quantified in the proposal.

Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing is not required by the sponsor but is quantified in the proposal. For example, if an investigator proposes to devote 35% effort to a project but only requests 25% salary support, the additional 10% effort that will be supported by USC is Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing. This must have prior approval by the dean.

Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Sharing (VUCS) is not initially promised in the proposal or otherwise indicated. For example, if an investigator proposes and charges 25% effort, but the investigator actually devotes 35% effort, the additional 10% effort that was not originally promised is VUCS. VUCS must be supported by unrestricted or appropriate gift sources and may not be attributed to another sponsored project. The significance of the distinction between the two types of voluntary cost sharing is that Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Sharing is not included in the project budget and not included in the university’s organized research base for computing the indirect cost rate.

You may not offer a cost-share commitment on your own, even if you think it is desirable to free up funds for other project costs. You would in effect be charging the department or school budget for effort you are devoting to the sponsor’s work, as well as impacting USC’s rate for Recovery of Indirect Costs. Dean’s prior approval is required.

Mandatory or Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing must be identified and approved in writing by the Dean of the relevant school(s) or unit(s) or their authorized designee, prior to submission to the Department of Contracts and Grants. Both Mandatory and Voluntary Committed Cost Sharing must be charged to companion cost sharing accounts and any cost shared effort of these types must be certified. This is to demonstrate to sponsors that cost sharing commitments have been fulfilled.

The NIH salary cap is the maximum amount of salary that can be charged to an NIH award. The salary cap does not limit total USC compensation but only the portion of compensation that is charged to the award. It assumes a 12 month full time contract so if your appointment level or contract period is anything less it needs to be prorated.

The difference between the percentage of total salary and the allowable salary must be charged to an unrestricted institutional account. Since this overage cannot be charged to an NIH grant, it also cannot be used to meet any cost-sharing commitments.

As an example, if a faculty member is paid over the salary cap and is providing 10% of his or her effort on an NIH award, 10% of the capped amount for the corresponding time period can be charged.

Faculty Salary: $200,000
NIH Cap: $192,300
Effort on NIH grant: 10%
Maximum salary charge to NIH grant = Effort % X NIH Cap = 10% X $192,300 = $19,230

The difference between the salary charged to NIH and the actual salary must be paid from a university unrestricted account. It is not, however, considered cost-share, as it is not an NIH allowable expense.