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.

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.

Does Columbia match financial aid packages from other schools?

If the student receives a need-based offer with a different interpretation of the family’s financial circumstances, please fax us a copy of the offer, along with any additional pertinent information. Our office will review your request for reconsideration to determine if a change is appropriate. Please note that we will not review any merit-based awards.

How do I report my family’s special circumstances?

Additional information you would like us to review with your application can be reported in the Explanations section of the CSS Profile. You can also contact us at ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu with an explanation of your individual circumstances. A financial aid officer will review the information and reach out to you with any needed follow-up.

Do I have to maintain a minimum GPA?

There is no minimum GPA requirement to qualify for financial aid. However, the student must be maintaining satisfactory academic progress towards a Columbia degree and enrolled full-time.

How do I track my financial aid application?

The application tracking tool is available during specific windows of time for each application cycle. The following site contains the link to the tracking page, as well as the dates when it is available:

https://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/forms/track

Forms and documents will not appear immediately following submission on the Online Financial Aid System; please allow for processing time of at least 3-5 business days (and 5-8 business days for documents submitted to IDOC).

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 (available in July).

Should I apply Early Decision or Regular Decision?

Early Decision is a binding process where students commit to attend Columbia should they be admitted. Students applying through the Early Decision process ought to be confident that Columbia is their desired school of choice. If the student and family feel that financial aid will be a significant factor in whether or not the student can attend, we strongly recommend the family researches the financial aid process prior to applying, and consider applying Regular Decision in order to preserve the option of comparing financial aid decisions from multiple schools.

Please use the Net Price Calculator at Columbia and other preferred schools to estimate your financial aid eligibility, and speak with a financial aid officer to discuss any questions you may have.

Are there student/parent loans available?

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

Should I borrow Federal Loans or Private Loans?

Federal loans have a variety of repayment options, low fees and fixed interest rates for the life of the loan. Private loans may have lower interest rates, but these rates are often not fixed, and fees can vary. It is up to each borrower to choose the loan that makes the most sense for their individual needs. We recommend speaking with a Financial Aid Officer if you have questions prior to borrowing.

How much should I borrow?

Students may borrow up to the full cost of attendance in student loans. However, we recommend only borrowing what you need: this may be only to cover billed expenses or it may be to cover both billed and non-billed expenses. If you have questions about your borrowing need, please contact our office to speak with a Financial Aid Officer. Additionally if students receive any type of other funding, please note your loan eligibility will change.

Are there loans for international students?

International students may seek private lenders for available education loans. Some lenders may require a U.S. co-signer. Columbia offers a suggested lender list online, but students may choose a lender not on that list as well.

Where can I see my bill?

Students may view their bill online through their SSOL account.

Can I borrow loans to cover non-billed items like rent, books and personal expenses?

Yes, students may borrow up to the full cost of attendance. This includes both billed and non-billed expenses. All loans will first disburse to the student account. Once all charges are paid, any excess loan funds will be refunded to the student via direct deposit or paper check.

How do I meet with a Financial Aid Officer?

We have walk-in hours each day from 9:30-4:30pm, except Tuesday from 9:30-2:30pm. Pre-scheduled appointments are not required. Officers are also available by phone at 212-854-3711.

How do I defer my undergraduate loan repayment?

Columbia University will send your enrollment status to the National Student Loan Clearinghouse after the add/drop period each semester. If you have loans from lenders who do not work with this clearinghouse, you may request a certificate of enrollment online through SSOL to submit to your lender.

Are there any other funding opportunities?

Students may be funded by their academic department. Any students who receive these funds are notified at the time of admission. There is no separate application process. Students may also search for available scholarships and fellowships online: http://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/other-funding.

What if I change the number of credits I am taking?

Loan eligibility is directly tied to the number of credits you are enrolled in each semester. If you add or drop a class after your loans have been processed, our office will make adjustments as appropriate based on your new loan eligibility. Students who drop below half-time will no longer be eligible for federal student loans.

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