Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Frequently Asked Questions

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In addition to these frequently asked questions, we encourage you to explore our website to learn more about our financial aid policies and how you can apply for aid.  We are here to work with you and your family in developing a plan to pay for college at Columbia University.  Students and parents may review available financing options.  Financial Aid Officers are also here to answer any questions prospective, newly admitted, or current students/parents may have.    

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 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 2015-2016, our office uses a figure of $3,224 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 I renew my financial aid?

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

Does Columbia offer scholarships?

All financial aid administered by our office is need-based.  There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships awarded to students at Columbia College and the undergraduate division of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  Students are welcome to pursue outside scholarship opportunities independently.  

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.

Will my admission decision be affected if I apply for financial aid?

For all applicants who are US Citizens or Eligible NonCitizens, the admissions process is need-blind, meaning that applying for financial aid will have no bearing on the admission decision.                                   

International students are evaluated in a need-aware process, meaning that among the many criteria taken into consideration in rendering an admissions decision, the student’s status as a financial aid applicant is also considered. 

Is financial aid available for international students?

Yes. Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for international students admitted as first-years and transfers pursuing their first degree. Please be aware that Columbia is need-aware in its admission of international students. International applicants must apply for and demonstrate financial need at the time of admission. If you plan on applying for financial at any point during your four years of study then you must indicate that you are a financial aid applicant on your admissions application. If you do not, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during your enrollment unless your citizenship status changes.

How much financial aid is available for transfer students?

Financial aid for transfer students is need-based, and determined based on a financial aid analysis, in the same manner as for incoming first-year students.  We guarantee to meet full demonstrated financial need for transfer students pursuing their first degree. Combined Plan applicants, please see Combined Plan information.

What percentage of Columbia students receives financial aid?

Approximately 50% of undergraduate students in Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences receive financial aid.

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 ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu

Does Columbia have financial aid policies to support low-income students?

Financial aid is awarded to students and families of many income levels; however we do have specific financial aid initiatives designed to make Columbia accessible to students from low-income households.

What is the Net Cost?

The net cost is the amount your family should expect to pay towards your billed and non-billed education expenses for the academic year. It is the combination of the Student Responsibility and the Parent Contribution.

How is financial aid eligibility calculated?

Because our financial aid program is need based, we determine financial aid eligibility by evaluating each family’s ability to pay for education costs. Our office conducts a thorough review of each applicant’s financial information every year, and we take many factors into consideration during our analysis.  Review our Determining Eligibility page for more information about the factors we consider.

What does total family income include?

We calculate a family’s total income by adding all sources of income, including any untaxed income (e.g., 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 to determine the total family income.

May I request a re-evaluation of my financial aid package? (Admitted 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 ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu

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