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 if my PLUS Loan application is denied based on adverse credit?

You may still be eligible to receive a PLUS loan. To become eligible you must either:

· Obtain an endorser.


· Document extenuating circumstances to the satisfaction of the U.S. Department of Education.

· In either situation, you will need to complete PLUS Credit Counseling, prior to becoming eligible for the PLUS loan.

Why would my PLUS loan application be denied?

Please review the Adverse Credit Conditions considered by the Department of Education on their FAQ page.

What if my parent does not have a Social Security Number?

Your parent will not be able to borrow a Federal Parent PLUS loan without a Social Security Number; please contact our office for additional financing options.

What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

Interest for subsidized loans begins accruing after the six-month grace period (post-graduation or during a period of less-than-halftime enrollment longer than six months). If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact our office.

Unsubsidized Loans begin to accrue interest once the loan has disbursed to the student account.

Why can’t I see my own tax return information when transferring the data?

Your tax return information is not visible because of added security and privacy protections.

Can the school see the data that’s transferred from the IRS?

Yes. We will have access to the tax return information that is transferred via the IRS DRT and will follow up with you if we notice issues or need more information.

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.

Can families who live outside of the United States use the Net Price Calculator Tool?

Though our calculator also takes into consideration factors such as currency exchange and differences in cost of living expenses, please note that our calculator works best for families living in the US. We have designed our calculator for families living in the US; therefore this calculator will not be able to provide an accurate estimate for international students.

How do I use the calculator if my parents are divorced or separated?

Please input separate calculations with each parent’s information. The combination of the two results will be the total expected parent contribution. If either parent has remarried, your stepparent's information should also be provided. The calculated parental contribution will be based on both incomes; however, Columbia’s final calculation applies a proportional methodology to remarried parents.

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 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:

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.

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:

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.

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.