Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

FAQs: Parents & Families

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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 $10 to $160. 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.

In addition, you should budget for the cost of travel between home and New York City. Students who will be flying to school are encouraged to take advantage of the lowest student fares available by booking as early as possible. We also encourage students to check online for bargains by doing a search for “student travel”.

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 options and 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.

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.

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.

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.

How will I pay for the flight to my Study Abroad program?

Students are expected to make their own travel arrangements to their abroad program including the purchase of a plane ticket to their destination. The Financial Aid office does not provide any assistance or additional funds to pay for a student's travel and advises that families purchase flights early to take advantage of lower prices. Eligible students will be notified via email when their refunds will be disbursed if their program begins prior to the Columbia semester start date. Otherwise, students' aid will disburse based at the beginning of the respective semester and can be monitored through their SSOL accounts under "View Student Account Detail By Term."

How do I cover my enrollment deposit for my Study Abroad program?

Families are expected to pay the enrollment deposit for their student's study abroad program and adhere to the deadlines set by that institution. However, a student's enrollment deposit can be deferred if they receive enough financial aid that the anticipated refund will cover the program's fees. Eligible students can visit the Office of Financial Aid to determine if their expected aid will generate a refund and complete the necessary documentation to have the payment deferred. Students should consult their specific program to understand what documentation is required in order to have their deposit deferred. Please be aware that not every student will receive a refund to defer the enrollment deposit and should expect to cover said fee in order to avoid complications with matriculation.

When do I file the FAFSA?

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1, 2020 for the 2021-2022 academic year. It is submitted online and requires both the student and parent to create an FSA ID, if they do not already have one. We strongly encourage families to utilize the Data Retrieval Tool.

Early Decision: The FAFSA is due November 15, 2020.

Regular Decision: The FAFSA is due February 15, 2021.

Transfer/Combined Plan: The FAFSA is due March 1, 2021.

Continuing Students: The FAFSA is due May 5, 2021.