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.    

What is the Student Responsibility?

All financial aid recipients are expected to contribute towards the Student Responsibility, which consists of the Student Contribution and Student Employment.  

All incoming First-Year students have a minimum Student Contribution of $2,400 as part of their financial aid award; a contribution from student assets may be included.  The expectation is that the student will earn this amount in the summer preceding their first academic year. We do not mandate, however, that students work during the summer. Students and their families may cover this amount with outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options if they choose to.

Student Employment is also part of the financial aid award.  Students earn this amount during the Fall and Spring semesters.  This amount typically goes towards non-billed expenses, such as books/supplies and other personal expenses.  This expectation is also not required, and may be covered by outside scholarships, savings, parental assistance, and/or other financing options.

In future years, students who obtain unpaid summer or semester internships may apply for additional grant to cover these expectations through the Work Exemption Program.

 

What is the Parent Contribution?

The Parent Contribution is the amount the parents are expected to pay towards educational costs for the academic year. It is based on our review of the information provided to us in the financial aid application.  Learn more about the variables that are considered in our analysis.  

What assets are factored in when determining financial aid eligibility?

Parents’ assets include cash, savings, investments, home equity, other real estate equity, and business equity.  We do not include the value of retirement assets in our analysis.  We do provide enhanced financial aid eligibility for low-income families with typical assets.  For families with an income up to $100,000, we consider typical assets to be approximately up to $250,000.

Is my award finalized?

Early Decision applicants- The financial aid award you received will be finalized based on prior year tax returns and information provided in the CSS Profile. 

Regular Decision applicants- If your financial aid award was reviewed with prior year tax returns, then your financial aid eligibility is final. 

How do outside scholarships affect my Columbia financial aid award?

Outside scholarships replace 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 or eliminated. If the total amount of outside scholarship funds exceeds this amount, it will then begin to replace the Columbia grant.  Outside scholarships will not reduce the Parent Contribution.

Additional information can be found on our outside scholarship

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

US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – You may apply for financial aid in future years.  This request must come in writing from the student directly.

International students – You must have indicated that you were a financial aid applicant at the time of your admission application and qualified for need-based aid.  If you did not, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during your enrollment unless your citizenship status changes.  

What if my financial aid application is still incomplete?

If your financial aid application was incomplete at the time of admission, you can still complete it and receive a financial aid evaluation. Please submit the missing items at your earliest convenience.  If you have any questions regarding any of the missing materials please contact our office.

How can I request a fee waiver for the CSS Profile?

The CSS Profile provides up to 6 fee waivers to qualifying domestic students who are first-time, first-year, low-income applicants.  Eligibility for fee waivers is automatically assessed at the time you complete the CSS Profile. Columbia does not offer additional fee waivers to domestic students.

Low-income International students wishing to request a CSS Profile fee waiver should contact ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu.

Can I apply for financial aid after I am admitted?

US Citizens and Eligible Noncitizens – You can apply for financial aid after the recommended deadline, and financial aid eligibility will not be impacted by the time of application. We do recommend that you file by the deadline to assure you receive a timely eligibility letter.

International- You MUST have indicated that you were a financial aid applicant at the time of the admission application and qualified for need-based aid.  If you did not, you will not be eligible to apply for financial aid at any time during your enrollment unless your citizenship status changes.  

How do I file corrections to the CSS Profile?

To make corrections or changes to the information that you provided on the CSS Profile, print out the page(s) that you need to change/correct and hand write the correct information. Those corrected page(s) should be submitted directly to our office via fax or mail.

 

Fax:  212-854-5353

Mail:

 

Financial Aid & Educational Financing

Columbia University

1130 Amsterdam Avenue

100 Hamilton Hall, MC 2802

New York, NY 10027

What is IDOC?

IDOC is the College Board’s document management system. Tax returns and other documents can be uploaded electronically or mailed to IDOC. Students completing the CSS Profile will be sent an e-mail with instructions on submitting information. Additional information is available on their website:

https://idoc.collegeboard.org/idoc/index.jsp

Note: Certain populations of students are asked to send documents directly to Columbia. Please follow the submission instructions for your applicant type using our How to Apply tool.

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.

As an undocumented student, am I eligible for financial aid?

Yes, Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status.

For admissions purposes, undocumented students are considered international and their applications are evaluated in a need-aware manner. This means that the admissions committee takes into consideration how much financial aid a student requires when rendering an admissions decision. Columbia admits a large number of international students, many of whom receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Undocumented students are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid, so we meet their need entirely from Columbia funding.

 
I hold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. What types of financial aid can I receive?

Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, including those with DACA status, are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid, so Columbia meets their need entirely from institutional resources.

How do I apply for financial aid as an undocumented student?

Undocumented students should not file the FAFSA, whether or not they hold DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. Undocumented students should submit the CSS Profile as well as prior year federal tax returns and W-2s via IDOC. If applicable, the CSS Non-Custodial Profile and/or Business/Farm tax forms should also be submitted.

Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, regardless of DACA status, are not eligible to receive federal and state financial aid, so we meet their need entirely from Columbia funding.

If my DACA status changes, will my financial aid change?

All undocumented students, including those with DACA status, are considered as foreign citizens and their financial aid is funded entirely from institutional grants and not federal funding. Thus, a student's DACA status (or change in such) would have no impact on existing financial aid.

Columbia is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all students admitted as first-years or transfer students pursuing their first degree, regardless of citizenship status.

When will I be unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool?

You will be unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool if you have indicated that you have not yet filed or will not file a 2015 tax return; if you filed a foreign or Puerto Rican tax return; if you filed an amended tax return (1040X); if you filed a tax return using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN); or if you indicated on the FAFSA that you are married but filed separately from your spouse (Married, Filing Separately; or Head of Household).

Will my financial aid eligibility be the same all four years?

Students and families are asked to submit a financial aid application in each year the student attends. In general, if the family’s income and asset levels remain steady, the Parent Contribution (PC) will as well. Some common causes for change in future financial aid awards include:

  • Change in the number of students in the household enrolled in an undergraduate program
  • Changes to household income or assets
What if I can’t provide the non-custodial parent information for the financial aid application?

Columbia's policy views financial aid as a partnership between the student, the biological or adoptive parents, and the school. While the application process has requirements for the student and both parents, we recognize that certain circumstances can prevent the completion of a financial aid application. 

If you are not in contact with your non-custodial parent or have circumstances that would make obtaining the non-custodial information impossible, you can submit a request to waive the non-custodial parent requirements. If you feel that you will be unable to complete this component of the financial aid application please complete the Noncustodial Parent Waiver Request then fax to (212) 854-5353.

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