No-cost extension (NCE) is an award provision that allows the Principal Investigator (PI) to request additional time beyond the end of a project period to complete the project’s scope of work. The additional time is usually up to twelve (12) months, without additional funding. The Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG) recommends requesting at least a six (6) month extension. The NCE must be requested before the project’s end date and meet the three (3) conditions below:
- The end of the project period is approaching, AND
- There is a programmatic, project related need to continue the research, AND
- There are sufficient funds remaining to cover the extended effort
Overall, it takes approximately two weeks to process and apply a no-cost extension to a grant cost center. However, if the request is made in sufficient time prior to the end of the award, the PI will not experience a break in funding from the award to continue the project. The chart below outlines the steps, responsible office or person, and the time it takes to complete each step.
No-Cost Extension Process and Timeline
|Steps||Responsible Office or Person||Timing|
|Submit a written request for a NCE to OCG at least 45 days before the project end date||
Principal Investigator (PI)
|Review and submit the request to the sponsor||OCG; Post Award Research Administrator (RA)||2-3 business days|
|Review, approve and release an amendment and notification to the University||Sponsor||
5-7 business days -First time NOA
|Update the award project cost center in the finance system amendment and send internal notification to PI and department staff||OCG||2-3 business days|
The award document or the sponsor’s terms and conditions should indicate the process for obtaining a NCE. If there are no guidelines in the sponsor’s document, the PI should contact OCG. The request must be initiated by the PI and can be handled in one of two ways depending on the type of sponsor.
- If the project is funded by a federal sponsor that has delegated the responsibility for approving NCEs for awards to the institution, the FIRST NCE request can be approved as soon as OCG notifies the sponsor of the extension.
- NSF, NIH, NASA, ARO, AFOSR, NEA, NEH, DOE and DED allow an institution to internally approve a one-time request to extend the project period for up to an additional 12 months, unless otherwise noted in the award terms and conditions. Prior approval is required for any subsequent extension.
- All other federal agencies, state, local and private sponsored projects, require prior approval from the sponsor for a NCE. A formal letter/email should be forwarded to OCG for review/approval prior to submission to the sponsor. If the PI submits the request directly to the sponsor, they should copy OCG at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second No-Cost Extension
Some sponsors may consider a second no-cost extension. When allowed, a detailed review of the PI’s justification and explanation is needed. PIs should reach out to the program officer ahead of time if they anticipate needing additional time beyond a first no-cost extension.
Reasons for a Rejection of a No-Cost Extension
A NCE can be rejected for the following reasons:
- When the request is made solely because there is money left over with no programmatic benefit explained;
- When the justification or explanation provided involves a change in the scope of work not approved by the sponsor ahead of time;
- When the remaining funds may have come from a prior year’s appropriation and cannot be extended.
Formal Letter for No-Cost Extension
When a formal letter addressed to the sponsor’s point of contact(s) is needed from the University for a NCE, the PI should include the information listed below in the letter and forward it to OCG for review and an authorized official’s signature before submission to the sponsor:
- Sponsor’s award number
- The current project end date
- The new requested end date
- The total amount of unobligated funds remaining to support the extended effort
- Description of the remaining work to be done during the extension period