Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Parents & Families

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Are there other charges or expenses that I should be aware of?

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 un-billed costs for books and miscellaneous expenses. Miscellaneous expenses may include such things as academic supplies, personal items, and recreation. For 2013-2014, our office uses a figure of $3,028 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”.

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

The scholarships that students receive from outside sources become part of the financial aid award and enable students to reduce the Student Contribution and Work Study/Student Employment portions of the financial aid package.  Only after the Student Contribution and work study have been completely eliminated will scholarships begin to reduce any Columbia Grant students may have received.

PLEASE NOTE: Outside Scholarships/outside funding may NOT reduce the Parent Contribution.

Tuition benefits from your/your family’s employer are applied to your need-based financial aid award as any other outside scholarship/outside funding (see above paragraph).

ROTC and Veteran’s Benefits: Scholarships received through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and/or veteran’s benefits/Post-9-11 GI Bill benefits are applied to your need-based financial aid award in the same manner as any other outside scholarships/outside funding (see above paragraph). For further information about ROTC at Columbia, please visit

For information, please see our Outside Scholarships page.

Does Columbia offer scholarships and if so, how many?

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.

What percentage of Columbia students receive financial aid?

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.

Does Columbia offer merit scholarships?

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.

Will the financial aid award change after we have received the original award?

Possibly, but only if the verification process has revealed that certain information you provided during the application process is not accurate. We realize the financial aid forms are complicated and that our deadlines may require you to provide estimated information. As a result, initial financial aid awards may be based on inaccurate estimates provided by a family.

Can families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

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.

What is your policy towards renewing the financial aid award after the first year?

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.

How and when should we submit the renewal application for financial aid?

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.

How do we obtain an IDOC cover sheet?

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.

When will we receive the financial aid award letter?

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.

When and where are bills sent?

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.

What are some options for how we may pay the 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.

Combination Strategy:
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.