Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Student Account Credit Balances & Refunds

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A credit balance is created when the payments made and/or financial aid disbursed exceed the student account charges. Students with a credit balance can choose to keep the credit on their student account to be applied to a future balance or to have the credit refunded to them.

A refund is the transfer of a credit balance on a student account to a personal account. Students can use a refund to pay for out-of-pocket costs, such as books or personal expenses. Around the end of September, we begin to review refund requests to confirm student refund eligibility for Student Financial Services (SFS). Once confirmed, SFS will begin to process the refunds according to the preferences on each student account.

Refund Eligibility

You can determine whether you have a credit on your student account by viewing your account activity through SSOL (Student Services Online). If your total credits exceed your charges and prior term balance (if any), you can request a refund.

Please keep in mind the following points:

  • A credit created from Anticipated Activity (aid that has not yet disbursed) does not qualify for a refund.
  • If your account shows a credit but you have not been charged all of your fees, you may not be eligible for a refund. This might happen if you recently enrolled for on-campus housing or a meal plan, and these fees have not yet posted.
  • If you take a leave of absence, you may not qualify for a refund once your charges and financial aid have been adjusted. If you receive a refund before you take a leave of absence, you may be required to pay back all or a portion of your refund.
  • If you are receiving outside scholarships or external funding that is not reflected in your most recent financial aid eligibility letter, you may not be eligible for the credit on your student account.
  • If you have received too much aid for the fall term, we may need to shift financial aid from the fall to the spring term to ensure you have enough aid in the spring to cover your expenses for that term.

Refund Options

Direct Deposit (Recommended)

Direct Deposit is the fastest way to receive your refund, as it transfers your credit on your student account directly to your U.S. bank account. More information on direct deposit can be found on the Student Financial Services website.

Mailed Check

If you choose not to sign up for direct deposit, a refund check will be mailed to your U.S. local address listed in SSOL or your U.S. permanent address if you don’t have a local address listed. As such, it is very important that you remove all outdated addresses from your SSOL account.

Hold Refund

You can choose to keep the credit balance on your student account to pay future tuition charges. No action is required to leave the credit on your student account.

NOTE: If a credit balance is created due to an excess of Title IV Aid (Federal Student Aid), the opt-out process described above does not apply. A Title IV credit balance is created when the total of all federal aid credited to a student’s account exceeds the total of tuition, fees, room, board, and other eligible educational charges on a student’s account. More information on Title IV credits can be found on the SFS website.

Western Union Wire

If you do not have a US bank account and are living abroad, you can request that Student Financial Services process your refund through Western Union (WU) Global Pay. To initiate this process, please email us at ugrad-finaid@columbia.edu to request a wire refund. We will then forward your information to Student Financial Services, and they will reach out to you with further information and instructions on the process.

Request a Refund

You can request your refund through SSOL. Log into the system, go to Account and then click on the "Refund" option. Enter your information in the fields. If you would like to sign up for Direct Deposit, you can activate this via the link above the contact information on your Refund page.

Refund Process

We will begin reviewing requests for the Fall term towards the end of September and will continue this process throughout the school year. In most cases, we will send a request to SFS to process your refund.

In some cases, there may be a wait period before a refund can be issued. For example, if your credit was generated by a check payment, there will be a 10 day waiting period before this credit will be reviewed for refund eligibility. ACH payments have a wait period of 7 days.

During peak periods, most refunds should be initiated within two weeks of your request, beginning around the end of September. Once initiated, direct deposit can take an additional 3-5 business days to process before the funds credit your personal account. Mailed checks can take 10-14 business days before you receive a check, though we have experienced even longer timeframes in the past year due to mailing delays.