Graduate Student Researcher Compensation

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Notice NOT-OD-02-017 defines Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) compensation for those GSRs funded by NIH research grants. The compensation level is tied to the National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral stipend level 0 that is in effect at the time the grant award is issued. GSR compensation includes total salary or wages, fringe benefits and tuition remission from all NIH sources. The notice established a policy related to the level of compensation for graduate students supported by funds from the NIH. This policy applies to all graduate students at the grantee institution supported by research grants or cooperative agreements funded by the NIH; it does not apply to graduate students receiving compensation under a NRSA training grant or fellowship.

NOT-OD-02-017 allows for institutions to re-budget funds to charge more than the awarded amount, as long as the principles surrounding reasonable compensation are followed and as long as a GSR is not paid at a rate higher than the amount provided to a first year postdoctoral scientist at the same institution. UCSF achieves compliance with these principles using the University of California Academic Personnel Manual, which sets forth the Postdoctoral Scholar Salary levels in APM-390 Postdoctoral Scholars (specifically, see Salary Scale revisions). A benefit rate is added to provide total first-year postdoctoral compensation; current benefit rates are available at

In accordance with this notice, UCSF allows for the following (see details in the Graduate Student Researcher Compensation Guidance):

  • Allowable GSR compensation of salary, benefits, and tuition remission is limited by UCSF’s contractual compensation level for first-year NRSA postdoctoral scholar compensation (salary and benefits).
  • GSR compensation that is in excess of the NIH NRSA scale 0 for postdoctoral scholar stipends may be re-budgeted within the award.


Based on FY2019 Levels

Total for One Year, Full-time
NIH NRSA stipend level for zero-level postdoctoral scholar $ 50,004

Maximum amount NIH will award for GSR compensation

$ 50,004

UCSF contractual compensation for first year postdoc (salary of $52,896 + fringe benefits of $12,166 at 23% rate)

$ 65,062

UCSF minimum compensation level for federal funded GSR (salary of $40,272, 1% fringe benefits of $403, and tuition remission of $17,933)

$ 58,608

UCSF maximum compensation level for federal funded GSR (salary, fringe benefits, and tuition remission)

$ 65,062

In this example, the PI budgets at the proposal stage for a GSR at actual cost for salary, fringe benefits and tuition remission as needed on the project (up to the UCSF first year postdoctoral scholar total compensation level) and according to established University rates: a portion of the budget is included in the GSR Compensation line and a portion in the Other Expense line. The total allowable cost for a full-time GSR for one year is $65,062; $50,004 and $15,058 will be budgeted as GSR Compensation and Other Expense, respectively. NIH will award $50,004 for the GSR. The PI may re-budget after the grant award is issued and charge to the grant $65,062 for the GSR.

If you have any questions regarding the application of this policy, please contact CGA Compliance at [email protected].