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NSF GRFP stipend use restrictions


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I’m one of the lucky folks who was awarded an NSF grad research fellowship this spring. One thing I’m still unsure about is the use of the stipend—are there any restrictions on what fellows can use it for? For instance, could I use the the stipend to travel to a domestic conference? Or purchase lab equipment? Or pay for lab analyses? I’d ask the program directly, but they gave me a few incorrect answers when I reached out with a different question earlier this year. Any info from the forum would be appreciated!

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What do you mean? The NSF GRFP stipend is basically a salary. I don't think the GRFP comes with a research grant or anything like that. You get the stipend as your salary and the school gets up to $12000 to offset your tuition costs. So, you can spend it on whatever you want.

Each school will have different policies on how their own funds to support you will change if you hold the NSF GRFP. At my PhD program, the annual stipend for all students was $31,000 in my final year. However, if you hold a NSF GRFP, the NSF GRFP 34,000/year stipend replaces the 31,000 from the program. So you would get nothing from the program---it would all come from NSF. 

Each field is also different----in my field, a student is never expected to pay for research costs out of their own salary. So we would never use the NSF GRFP to pay for the things you've listed. Maybe if you have a really weird special case where you somehow kept your original department funding and got the $34,000 on top of that...

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  • 4 weeks later...

That sounds correct - you use the stipend as you would use any other salary. If you want to spend it on a conference, it is your choice. One of the few restrictions on the stipend that I know of is that you can't put any of your stipend into a Roth IRA (retirement account). 

Maybe you are referring to the 12K cost of education allowance? Your graduate program will determine how you can use it. It can be very variable - at the least it is supposed to cover your tuition and fees. At my university, I can use the leftover money to travel to conferences or purchase supplies. On occasion, I have heard of it being used for a student's health insurance. 

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