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Cost Share

Cost Sharing is a financial commitment by Virginia Tech to share in the funding of a sponsored activity. The university will make a cost-sharing commitment only when required by the sponsor or by the competitive nature of the award and only to the extent necessary to meet the specific requirements of the sponsored project. University funds are limited and unnecessarily large cost share requests reduce funds available for other proposals and limit the impact of the university’s programs. 

Types of Cost Sharing

  • Mandatory Cost Share: Cost share required by the sponsor as a condition of the award.
  • Voluntary Committed Cost Share: Quantified resources voluntarily committed by the principal investigator, which become mandatory once an award is made to the university.
  • Voluntary Uncommitted Cost Share: Voluntary uncommitted cost sharing refers to any effort of University faculty (and possibly senior researchers) beyond that which is committed and budgeted for in a sponsored agreement: unquantified commitments of resources beyond what is budgeted and accounted for in the proposal (often referred to as Institutional Commitment or Institutional Support).

Regardless of whether mandatory or voluntary, careful and consistent tracking and accounting for cost share commitments is critical. Cost sharing commitments, to the maximum extent possible, will be recorded in the university's accounting system. Cost sharing commitments that cannot be recorded in the accounting system (e.g., equipment purchased through the Equipment Trust Fund, third party committed cost sharing by organizations awarded sub-contracts by the university, etc.) shall be documented in the Cost Share Tracker System maintained by the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Questions regarding whether the cost share is mandatory or voluntary and allowable sources of cost share should be directed to your Office of Sponsored Programs Pre-Award Associate.

More information is available in Virginia Tech’s Policy 3245, Cost Sharing on Sponsored Programs.

Cost Share Resources

Cost share can be categorized as either in-kind or cash contributions. If a sponsor does not outline the definitions in the solicitation, the following descriptions should be used as a guide.

  • In-kind Contributions: the computed value of any services and/or resources provided by Virginia Tech or a third party in support of a sponsored project. Third-party in-kind contributions may be in the form of real property, equipment, supplies, or other goods and services directly benefiting and specifically designated for Virginia Tech’s project. 2 CFR 200.306 dictates the terms by which in-kind contributions are valued for the purpose of fulfilling cost sharing obligations.
  • Cash Contributions: an actual cash transaction occurs and can be documented in the accounting system. This includes allocation of compensated faculty and staff time to projects. Other examples of a cash contribution include the purchasing of equipment by the institution or other eligible sponsor for the benefit of the project requiring cost sharing. Cash contributions should be reserved for mandatory cost share, to the extent possible.
  • Contributed F&A: the F&A associated with any cash contributions being made to the project by the University. For example, if the principal investigator plans to contribute time and effort to the project without compensation from the sponsor, the monetary value of this effort as well as the F&A associated with it may be offered as cost sharing.

Common Types of Allowable Cost Share

  • A portion of the principal investigator's salary and benefits, or other participant’s salary and benefits, to the total amount of effort. This typically does not require new committed dollars by the university.
  • Graduate assistantships, including proportionate tuition, or other personnel
  • Lab supplies or other allowable expenses
  • Equipment Trust Fund resources
  • Unrecovered facilities and administration or indirect funds that may require sponsor approval

Allowable Sources of Cost Share

  • Funds from program subrecipients
  • College or departmental research funds
  • Tuition unless an assistantship is cost shared with proportionate tuition
  • Gift or endowment funds
  • Investment institute funds
  • Office of Research and Innovation cost share funds

Unallowable Sources of Cost Share

  • General purpose equipment, building, and land, unless approved by the sponsor
  • Departmental and research administration
  • Costs already committed to another project
  • Federal funding

Other Resource Commitments

Virginia Tech often demonstrates institutional support, commitment, and capacity for various sponsored programs by describing resources and capabilities available to the program. These resources are not quantified or tracked in the performance of the program. Some examples include:

  • Lab space
  • Staff salary and benefits for communications and marketing
  • Costs associated with computing resources or other lab work, when not directly quantified in the proposal


The principal investigator is ultimately responsible for determining the quantity of cost share and what resources will be committed. However, the university has a number of resources available to support the principal investigator in this component of proposal development.

In general, principal investigators should clarify with their pre-award associate whether the cost share is mandatory or voluntary and allowable sources of cost share. Subsequently, principal investigators should work first with their departments, and then with their colleges and/or institutes to gather cost share commitments. In many colleges, the associate deans for research have responsibilities to help coordinate cost share proposals so that principal investigators can focus on proposal writing.

When a letter of support is required from university leadership, such as the Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation or the provost, the principal investigator and/or respective associate dean for research must provide a draft letter with adequate time for review and analysis (more than one week). The draft letter should include key points that must be emphasized, evidence of organizational commitments to the programs, and should pay careful attention to the solicitation’s guidelines.

Office of Research and Innovation Cost Share Pool

The Office of Research and Innovation has dedicated funds for supporting cost share on large sponsored programs. In general, these funds are reserved for high-leverage programs, programs that are larger than $1 million per year, and programs that have mandatory cost share requirements.  

Cost share requests should be coordinated through the principal investigator’s management chain. All cost share requests for the office’s cost share pool must include a contribution from the principal investigator’s department(s) and college(s) or institute as appropriate. In general, the Office of Research and Innovation will not contribute more than 50% of the total cost share for a program, and for most instances the cost share will be much less.

To the extent possible, the Office of Research and Innovation cost share pool resources should be used in a lump sum early in the project (e.g., to purchase equipment). Changes regarding the use of these cost share funds must be approved by the Office of Research and Innovation and the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Requests for cost share from this fund should be submitted to and the project’s Office of Sponsored Programs pre-award associate, by the principal investigator’s associate dean for research or institute director, as appropriate.  

Requests must be submitted with sufficient time for analysis and deliberation, and should use the cost share form to outline the following information:

  • Identification of the principal investigator(s), collaborating institutions, sponsor and program, and total sponsored amount.
  • Identification of whether cost share is mandatory, voluntary, or uncommitted
  • Identification of what exactly the cost share is supporting (e.g., equipment, personnel time, etc.)
  • Identification of what the total cost share proposal is, and what other resources are being put towards the cost share.
  • Requests should clearly identify which entity is supporting what part(s) and how much of the cost share.
  • Requests for the Office of Research and Innovation cost share are required to be accompanied by a budget developed in conjunction with the Office of Sponsored Programs that outlines the university’s total cost share commitment.

Federal Program Requirements and Examples

One specific federal program requires 30% cost share from doctoral-granting institutions such as Virginia Tech. The below examples reflect recent proposals to this program had the following cost share breakdowns.

Unit Cost Share Breakdown
Faculty Time 58%
Departments 24%
College 9%
Office of Research and Innovation 9%
Unit Cost Share Breakdown
Faculty Time
College 1 12%
College 2 12%
Office of Research and Innovation 12%
Cost Share Breakdown
College 1 12%
College 2 12%
College 3 3%
College 4 3%
Institute 47%
Office of Research and Innovation 23%