FAQs: Parents & Families
Columbia College and the undergraduate division of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science provide need-based financial aid to students, awarding grants, loans and on-campus work-study jobs to applicants on the basis of their family’s financial circumstances. There is no limit on the number of students who receive need-based financial aid as each application is considered individually. In 2013-2014 the average financial aid package was $41,207.
Approximately 50% of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance. In addition, about 78% of first-year students applying for financial aid for the 2013-2014 year received a need-based financial aid award.
There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based. Our students are often the recipients of merit-based scholarships from outside organizations (state grants/scholarships, local/national merit-based awards, etc.); however, no merit-based aid is offered directly from Columbia University.
Early Decision applicants- The financial aid award you received is an estimate based on prior year tax returns and estimates provided in the CSS Profile. Please visit our Apply for Aid section to see what steps you will take to complete your financial aid application with current year taxes, and the FAFSA. Over the summer you will receive a finalized award letter based on your updated information, and the final costs once approved by the Board of Trustees.
Regular Decision applicants- If your financial aid award was reviewed with current tax returns, then your financial aid eligibility is final. If your family applied using prior year information as current year were not filed yet, than you will receive a final award once the current information is submitted.
Yes. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.
Please note: international students and transfer students who were admitted without institutional financial aid are not eligible for institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances.
For each year of attendance at Columbia, you will need to submit a new financial aid application which will be evaluated using the same methods and criteria that were used when you were admitted. Since the cost of attendance increases each year, for the typical family the financial aid package will increase in order to keep up with the cost increase. However, if your family circumstances have changed (e.g., changes in income, number of people in the household, the number of children who are full-time undergraduate students), then your financial aid award will be adjusted to take these changes into account.
The deadline to submit the renewal application for financial aid is early May. We will contact you in early March with instructions on how to complete the renewal application process.
You can print one from the IDOC Web site. You will need the student’s social security number and date of birth in order to access the IDOC cover sheet.
Financial aid award letters for continuing students who submitted all financial aid application materials by the May 5th deadline are e-mailed at the end of June.
At Columbia we call each bill a Student Account Statement. The student will be sent the first Student Account Statement for the fall term in late July or early August, and the first statement for the spring term in early December. The payment due date will be approximately 30 days after the first Student Account Statement for the term has been sent.
In addition, the student will receive monthly Student Account Statements when there is a current activity on the account (a new charge or credit), or if a debit or credit balance remains on the account.
Student Account Statements will not be mailed home. Instead the student will be able to view their Student Account Statement via Student Services Online (SSOL). Also, on SSOL the student may authorize you to view the E-Bill.
There are a few payment strategies that Columbia parents commonly use; you can learn more about financing optionsand apply online.
Monthly Payment Plan:
Some families simply take the total billed costs minus the total amount of financial aid and pay the remaining amount through the 10-month payment plan. If you choose this option you would make ten equal monthly payments starting July 1. Remember that unbilled expenses are not included in this scenario. For example a family with billed costs of $30,000 would make ten $3,000 monthly payments. A family receiving some financial aid that has $15,000 in unbilled costs would make ten $1,500 monthly payments. Further informationis available on the SFS website.
Long-Term Financing: Student and/or Parent Loans
Some families choose to borrow most or all of the cost of education, thereby spreading out the payment of educational expenses over ten years. For example, a family may take a $30,000 Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan to cover the billed costs and would begin making monthly payments of approximately $379 to the lender, beginning sixty days after the second Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan disbursement. The second disbursement typically occurs in February since the loan is disbursed one-half for the fall term and one-half for the spring term.
Unlike the payment plan only strategy, long-term options like the Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan allows families to finance unbilled costs like books, miscellaneous expenses and travel. Therefore, a family may choose to borrow more than the billed costs, resulting in a small credit balance for the student each term. Credit balances are made available as a refund to the student.
Please note that there is usually an origination fee associated with long-term financing options and, therefore, the net proceeds received by the school will be slightly less than the total amount borrowed.
We realize that many families do not have the cash flow or liquid assets to accommodate the payment plan strategy. In addition, many families strive to keep borrowing to a minimum. As a result, we often counsel families to use a combination of payment plan and borrowing that fits the family’s circumstances. In general, it is best to pay as much as possible, interest-free, through the payment plan and borrow the rest using one of the long-term financing options. For example, a family paying $15,000 may choose to sign up for a $10,000 payment plan and borrow the remaining $5,000 using a Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan. In this case, ten monthly payments of $1,000 would be made to the Payment Plan and a monthly payment of approximately $73 would be made toward the Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan starting sixty days after the second Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan disbursement.
For more detailed Information regarding payment options and loans available to students and parents please visit theStudent Financial Services Web site.
Additional billed costs you might accrue include laboratory or language fees (for certain classes) and laundry service (optional). Some courses, particularly in the sciences and languages have fees ranging from $5 to $150. Laundry service costs begin at $20. These charges will not appear on the first Student Account Statement, but will appear on subsequent Student Account Statements.
You should plan for additional non-billed costs for books and miscellaneous expenses. Miscellaneous expenses may include such things as academic supplies, personal items, and recreation. For 2014-2015, our office uses a figure of $3,164 for these books and miscellaneous items when figuring the student’s cost of attendance.
In addition, you should budget for the cost of travel between home and New York. Students who will be flying to school are encouraged to take advantage of the lowest student fares available by booking as early as possible. If you do not have a travel agent, you may want to contact STA Travel at 800-777-0112 or the STA Travel Web site. We also encourage students to check online for bargains by doing a search for “student travel”.
Outside scholarships can be applied to replace, dollar for dollar, the Student Contribution (SC) and Work-Expectation components of the financial aid award. For example, if you are awarded a $5,000 outside scholarship, your SC and Work Study/Student Employment could be significantly reduced/eliminated. If the total amount of outside scholarship funds exceeds this amount, 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: http://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/content/outside-scholarships.