Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Currently Enrolled Students

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How do I renew my financial aid?

For information on the financial aid renewal application please visit the Apply for Aid section of our website.  

When will I receive my financial aid award letter?

If you submitted your financial aid application materials by the May deadline, you should receive the financial aid award by early July. After this, financial aid awards will be sent out on a rolling basis throughout the summer.

How do I understand my award letter?

For assistance in understanding your financial aid award letter, please visit our Award Letter Guide.

May I request a re-evaluation of my financial aid package? (Current Students)

You can submit a request to have your financial aid award reconsidered for one of the following reasons:

  •  Your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you originally submitted the financial aid application.
  • Your family’s financial circumstances are complex in nature, and you would like us to re-review the file with new information or clarification not previously submitted.

As appeals vary, and can be sensitive in nature, we recommend that you contact our office and speak with a financial aid officer prior to submitting a request. All requests for reconsideration should be submitted via e-mail to

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

Outside scholarships can be applied to replace, dollar for dollar, the Student Contribution (SC) and Work-Expectation components of the financial aid award. If the total amount of outside scholarship funds exceeds the SC and Work-Expectation, it will then begin reducing the Columbia grant.  Outside scholarships will NOT reduce the Parent Contribution.

Additional information can be found on our outside scholarship page.  

How are bills sent?

Billing at Columbia is only sent online. Students will receive an e-mail notification when a new E-Bill is generated. For parents or other third parties to receive billing notifications, the student needs to first set them up as Authorized Payers to the account. To do this, the student should log into Student Services Online (SSOL), click on Account, select the View E-Bill and Pay by E-Check option, and then go to the Authorize Payers, and set up an account for each person he/she wishes to receive the bill.

Please note that there are two different ways in which to view the account. The first is the official E-Bill. The E-Bill is a monthly snapshot of the account balance at a given time, and will not update until a new E-Bill is generated. The second is the Recent Activity section. This section is updated daily, and will reflect the most current account balance.

What will my bill look like?

Your financial aid award is separate from your bill. The financial aid budget includes billed items (such as tuition & fees, housing and meal plan) and unbilled items (such as books, and personal expenses), which will not appear on the bill. Your Estimated Family Contribution (Parent Contribution plus Student Contribution) will not match your bill dollar for dollar.

Additional information about the E-Billing process is sent students during the summer.  The Fall semester E-Bill will be sent to students and authorized payers in mid-August and is due in early September. 

For an estimate of what your bill will look like, please utilize our Bill Estimator Tool.

Are there student/parent loans available?

Some students and families choose to finance a portion of their Parent Contribution (PC) or Student Contribution (SC). Information on different financing options is available on the Education Loans portion of our website.

Does Columbia offer a payment plan?

Yes.  Families may finance all or a portion of the bill through either a 5 month (one semester’s bill) or 10 month payment plan (full academic year).   More information on the payment plan is available on Student Financial Services’ website.

How do refunds work?

In cases where a student’s financial aid overpays the billed charges, and a surplus is formed, this credit will be refunded to the student via check or direct deposit. To set up direct deposit, the student should log into Student Services Online (SSOL) and click on the Refund option.

How do students apply for a campus job?

There are two types of positions students may secure while enrolled: federal work-study or casual employment. Both types of positions are on-campus work; however they are funded by different sources. Eligibility for federal work-study is determined by the FAFSA. The financial aid award will indicate whether a student is eligible for federal work-study.  Federal work study jobs are posted online.

Students not eligible for federal work-study can obtain campus jobs, but would search for them in the casual-employment section. Casual employment campus jobs are posted on the LionSHARE portal.

Students are paid directly; their earnings are not applied toward the bill. Information on the requirements for student job paperwork as well as payroll is available online.  

How do I apply for the New York State TAP?

The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are a New York State resident, the federal processor will automatically send your FAFSA information to New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC). HESC will then send you a personalized TAP application for your signature. You must sign this form and return it to HESC in order to receive your TAP award.

How do I waive the medical insurance if I am already covered?

All full-time students are by default enrolled in the Gold level of the Columbia Plan. To request a waiver from default enrollment, you must submit a request online before September 19 (January 30 for new Spring enrollment or June 12 for new full-time Summer trimester students). All requests are considered but approval is not guaranteed.  A waiver must be submitted for each year of enrollment at Columbia.  Information on waiving the medical insurance fee is available on the Health Services website. 

How do my housing and meal plan choices impact my financial aid package?

The financial aid budget includes standard costs for room and board. These costs correspond directly to the standard first year charges: the least expensive housing option, and the most expensive meal-plan option. Upperclassmen are able to choose among different housing and meal-plan options. In order to remain within the financial aid budget, students traditionally choose to enroll in a similar combination to the standard first-year options (less expensive housing options, with more expensive meal plans), or to enroll in a comparable combination (more expensive housing with less expensive meal plans options). Many of the more expensive housing choices have individual shared kitchen facilities, resulting in students electing smaller meal plans or no meal plan, as they rely more on cooking for themselves. The less expensive housing options traditionally have kitchens in the building, but less individual access, and so many students will typically continue to rely on a larger meal plan.

Please note that students can choose whatever combination of housing and meal plan they wish, however a more expensive combination may result in an additional out-of-pocket cost. Financial aid awards are NOT adjusted for individual housing and meal plan selections.

We recommend that students speak with a financial aid officer if they have any questions on this topic prior to making their housing and meal plan selections.

How does financial aid work with Study Abroad?

Financial aid generally can be used to help cover the expenses of a study abroad program that grants academic credit during the Fall or Spring semesters.  As part of the application process for studying abroad, the Office for Global Programs (OGP) requires students to meet with a financial aid officer to discuss the impact on the financial aid award. Please bring in the OGP form to meet with an officer during any of our walk-in hours.

Do I have to pay the Health Service fee if I am covered by my parents’ medical insurance?

Yes.  The Health Service Fee is a mandatory fee to all students residing on campus, and enables students access to the services offered by Columbia’s Health Services (the on-campus infirmary).

Please note that this fee is separate from the Student Health Insurance cost, which can be waived for students who are otherwise covered.

For additional information please visit the Health Services site:

How will my aid change if I become a Resident Advisor (RA)?

The financial aid budget traditionally includes an amount to account for the cost of housing. As an RA, you will not be charged for housing. Your financial aid award will be adjusted to reflect the lower charges. The award will be simultaneously adjusted to reduce the Student Contribution (SC) and Fall/Spring semester work-expectation.

Please note that if you have any outside scholarships already reducing the SC and/or Work Expectation, this may impact the RA benefit.

For any questions on the direct impact on your award we recommend you meet with a financial aid officer during walk-in hours.

What is Federal Verification?

Federal Verification is a process which requires our office to verify the information provided on the FAFSA. To do this, families must provide documentation to corroborate that the personal and tax information reported on the FAFSA matches the tax returns submitted to the IRS. Additional information on this process is available on our verification page.

PLEASE NOTE:  Our office will work with all newly admitted students who enroll to collect required documentation during the summer for the Federal Verification process.