What exactly is the travel grant program?
The travel grant program was started in 2011 to be a supplemental fund for students going to present original research at academic conferences. It has since grown to include students attending conferences for their own intellectual benefit, and encompasses all disciplines.
The travel grant program is an agreement between Financial and Business Services (who issues reimbursements, including for travel, for the entire University) and GSG where GSG will ensure that all applications submitted for reimbursement have the required paperwork and forms while FBS will issue reimbursement checks. This ensures that FBS doesn’t have to track down receipts and forms from students, and allows GSG to run the program since we do not have the authority or people-power to cut checks from the University.
How is the travel grant program funded?
The travel grant program is funded from the graduate student activities fee that is paid by each graduate student each semester. As of Fiscal Year 2016-2017, the travel grant program was allocated $240,000 per year by the graduate student government senate. The program divides its allocation as follows:
- $20,000 for Summer I (July 1 – day before Fall Semester Starts)
- $100,000 for the Fall semester (Start of Fall Semester – December 31)
- $100,000 for the Spring Semester (January 1 – Graduation)
- $20,000 for Summer II (Graduation – June 30)
How does the process work?
- STEP 1: Applications are reviewed for completeness and correctness by an all-student team of interns. Due to the volume of applications, from the date that an applicant submits their application, it takes about 6 full business weeks for it to be reviewed by the interns. If information is missing, the interns will contact the student requesting the information.
- STEP 2: Once the application is complete, the director of the program will review the contents and approve the application, generating an automatic e-mail sent to students requesting a hard copy of all receipts. It takes about 2 full business weeks for the Travel Grant program director to review an application once the interns have reviewed it.
- STEP 3: Once a student has submitted their hard copy, it is sent to the Office of Student Government Office Manager (a full-time USC staff person), who reviews the application and has their assistants enter the information into the University’s payment system. It takes about 2 business weeks from the time the student submits a hard application. Please note that GSG is not authorized to enter information into the University Payment system per University policy, which is why this additional step is required.
- STEP 4: Once the application information has been entered into the payment system, the Student Governance Programs Manager (a full-time USC staff person) must then approve the application. It takes about 2 full business weeks from the time an applicant’s information is entered into the payment system to be reviewed and approved.
- STEP 5: Once the application has been approved by the Student Governance Programs Manager, the information is sent to Financial and Business Services. There, it is reviewed and, if approved, a check is processed and mailed directly to the student based on their address on file with the University. It takes about 8 full business weeks for a student to receive a check from the time the application is sent to FBS.
Please note the following about the process:
- The entire reimbursement process takes approximately 20 business weeks, or 5 months, from the time that the student first submits their application. It may take longer if the GSG review is set to take place during final exams, when much of the process takes place over holiday breaks, if students submit incorrect forms, or if students are unresponsive to emails requesting additional information. We know that this is a long time, and we are constantly working with University administration on ways to streamline the process.
- GSG only has control over the first two steps of the process. After that, we will do our best to see where an application is, but as everyone above us processes payments for not just GSG, but for multiple other offices on campus, it unfortunately sometimes just takes time.
- Checks are mailed to the student’s address that the University has on file. Please ensure that your address is up to date with the University, and not just with your own department. To update your address, please log on to my.usc.edu, click on OASIS, then click on “Other Services” (far right of the top menu), then click “Change of Address”. Please note that changing your address after you have submitted your application does not guarantee that your check will be mailed there. Thus, we recommend that if you plan to move within 6 months of submitting your application, that you update your address accordingly.
- FBS will only approve reimbursements for the fiscal year July 1 – June 30) in which travel occurred. Thus, especially for summer travel, it is incredibly important to carefully examine your conference dates before submitting your application.
Can I submit an application before I travel?
Yes, you may, and we encourage everyone to do so. Please note that if you submit your application less than 8 weeks before your date of travel, you may not hear back from GSG about being approved until your conference is over. Also note that you will not receive any funds until after the travel has occurred. Finally, note that if you wish to apply after the conference, you must do so within 14 days of the conference’s end date.
Who counts as a participant or attendee?
If you are presenting original work/research in the form of a talk, poster, or on a panel OR if you are serving as a moderator for a panel of other scholars who are presenting original work, then you are considered a participant.
If you are listening to a presentation OR are a co-author/co-creator of an original work or research but are not actively presenting, then you are an attendee.
What counts as Domestic or International travel?
Domestic vs. International is determined based on the location of USC, not the student. Thus, traveling outside of the United States or its territories (e.g. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, etc.) counts as international travel regardless of where the student is living or studying at the time of travel. Traveling to a state or territory within the United States counts as domestic travel, regardless of where the student is living or studying at the time of travel.
I’m having a problem submitting my application—help!
Occasionally, students encounter technical difficulties submitting their application. Please take screenshots of all of the steps you go through up until, and including, the step where you receive an error message. Please e-mail those screenshots to gsgvp at usc dot edu, and we will work to assist you as quickly as possible.
I e-mailed you yesterday and I haven’t gotten a response—what gives?
The intern team is composed of 3-4 full-time students who work on travel grants on a part-time basis. We process several hundred applications per semester, and must work through the e-mails associated with it. Please allow 5-7 business days for a response to your inquiry.
Will the Travel Grant Program fund research trips?
No. The Travel Grant Program will only fund attendance or participation at academic conferences (or a given field’s equivalent).
Will the Travel Grant Program fund summer seminar conferences?
It depends. If the purpose of the conference is to be a series of presentations on original academic work, then it probably qualifies for the Travel Grant Program. If the purpose of the conference is for students to undergo coursework (regardless of whether or not the student is receiving credit at USC), it probably will not count.
My question wasn’t answered by this FAQ or in the Application Guidelines and Procedures. What do I do?
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your question and application number, and we will respond as soon as we can.