Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What is Columbia’s new financial aid initiative?
  2. How does Columbia’s new financial aid initiative benefit prospective and current students?
  3. What does family income include?
  4. What assets are factored in the parent contribution calculations? What are typical assets?
  5. Should I apply for aid if my parent’s income is more than $100,000?
  6. Are the financial aid enhancements retroactive to prior academic years?
  7. How will the financial aid enhancements affect transfer students?
  8. How will the financial aid enhancements affect international students?
  9. Even though I was not awarded a loan as part of my financial aid package, can I still take out a loan?
  10. How will an outside scholarship affect my Columbia financial aid package?
  11. I’m planning to study abroad/pursue an unpaid internship, research or community service experience in the fall. How do I apply for a grant to replace my work expectation?

What is Columbia’s new financial aid initiative?

(announced March 11, 2008)

  • Columbia will eliminate loans for all students receiving financial aid, whatever their family income, and replace them with University grants.
  • In an effort to further assist low-income families, parents with calculated incomes below $60,000 with typical assets will no longer be expected to contribute any of their income or assets to tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees.
  • Families with calculated incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 and typical assets will see their parent contributions significantly reduced.
  • To support students pursuing study abroad, research, internships and community service opportunities, Columbia will offer additional funding and exemptions from academic year and summer work expectations.

How does Columbia’s new financial aid initiative benefit prospective and current students?

All students, but especially low and middle-class families, are the primary beneficiaries of Columbia’s new initiative. All students who qualify for Columbia financial aid will no longer be expected to take out loans as part of their financial aid package. In addition, families with calculated incomes below $60,000 and typical assets will no longer be expected to make a parent contribution for their student’s cost of education. Families with calculated incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 and typical assets will see a reduction in their parent contributions.

What does family income include?

Family income includes both taxed and untaxed income. Columbia determines family income by reviewing federal tax documents. Total income is based on the Adjusted Gross Income listed on the federal tax return plus all untaxed income (i.e., tax-deferred pension contributions, social security benefits, child support received, tax exempt interest).

In cases of divorced or separated families, the incomes from both parents are considered in determining total family income.

What assets are factored in the parent contribution calculations? What are typical assets?

When determining the parent contribution, we take into consideration the parents’ assets which include cash, savings, checking, investments, home equity, other real estate (other than home) equity, and business equity. We do not include retirement assets (i.e., 401K, 403b, IRA, Keogh) in our analysis.

For families with an income of $100,000, we would consider typical assets to be approximately $250,000.

Should I apply for aid if my parent’s income is more than $100,000?

Yes, though some of our program initiatives are for families with calculated incomes less than $100,000, other enhancements benefit students at all income levels. Such enhancements include a financial aid package that does not contain a loan, the summer and academic term work exemption program, and the elimination of work expectation while you study abroad.

There is no official income cut-off for financial aid eligibility, and many families with calculated incomes above $100,000 qualify and receive financial aid packages from Columbia. Since eligibility for need-based financial aid is determined by many factors, including the family’s income, assets, family size and number of children in college, we encourage you to apply if you are concerned about your ability to pay.

Are the financial aid enhancements retroactive to prior academic years?

No, these enhancements will begin with the 2008-09 academic year. Parent contributions and financial aid packages will not be adjusted for the current year or prior years.

How will the financial aid enhancements affect transfer students?

Some of the announced enhancements will extend to transfer students. Most notably, transfer students receiving financial aid will not be packaged with loans. In addition, transfer students will be eligible to apply for the summer and academic term work exemption program and have their work expectation eliminated during their study abroad term.

Due to the limited funding available for transfer students, we will be unable to extend the reductions in parent contributions to transfer students.

How will the financial aid enhancements affect international students?

Columbia meets the full demonstrated need of every student admitted as a first-year, regardless of citizenship. Some of the announced enhancements will extend to international students. Most notably, international students receiving financial aid will not be packaged with loans, be eligible to apply for the summer and academic term work exemption program and have their work expectation eliminated during their study abroad term.

There are many variables involved in the calculation of a parent contribution for international students, including differences in currency values, which make it difficult to say how any individual international student is going to be affected by these changes.

Even though I was not awarded a loan as part of my financial aid package, can I still take out a loan?

Yes. Students still have the option of borrowing through the Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan program. However, we highly recommend that you speak to a financial aid advisor in order to avoid any unnecessary borrowing.

How will an outside scholarship affect my Columbia financial aid package?

The scholarships you receive from outside sources will be used to reduce the academic term work portion of your financial aid package. Only after your academic work expectation has been completely eliminated will your scholarships begin to reduce any Columbia Grant you may have received.

I’m planning to study abroad/pursue an unpaid internship, research or community service experience in the fall. How do I apply for a grant to replace my work expectation?

The Summer and Academic Term Work Exemption Program will go into effect for Spring and Summer 2009. More information will be available later this fall.

Students who are planning to study abroad will automatically have their work study replaced by Columbia Grant when we receive official notice from the Office of Global Programs regarding your plans to study abroad.

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