Columbia Financial Aid and Educational Financing

Determining Eligibility

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Because our financial aid program is need based, we determine financial aid eligibility by evaluating each family’s ability to pay for education costs. Our office conducts a thorough review of each applicant’s financial information every year, and we take many factors into consideration during our analysis.

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; several variables are considered.

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  • Total Income

    We calculate a family’s total income by adding all sources of income, including any untaxed income (i.e., tax-deferred pension contributions, social security benefits, child support received, tax exempt interest). In cases of divorced or separated families, the incomes from both parents are considered to determine the total family income.

  • Assets

    When determining the parent contribution, we take into consideration the parents’ assets which include cash, savings, investments, home equity, other real estate equity, and business equity. Retirement assets are excluded from Columbia's analysis.

  • Household Size/Expenses

    This includes the financial aid applicant, parents, and other individuals currently residing in the primary home, or for whom the parents provide more than half of their financial support.

  • Number in College

    We include any siblings currently enrolled in an undergraduate program who are pursuing their first degree. We do not include siblings enrolled in graduate or professional school or parents in this number. Please note that the type of school siblings are enrolled in (for example: four-year private, four-year public, two-year public) will impact a student's financial aid eligibility.

  • Special Circumstances

    We recognize that many families have circumstances that are not adequately conveyed through the standard financial aid application. Families who would like us to consider additional information should document it in the Special Circumstances section at the end of the CSS Profile, or submit a letter of explanation directly to our office at the time of application.

Student Responsibility

The Student Contribution is based on a standard amount we expect students to earn for their college expenses by working over the preceding summer. It may also include a portion from student assets. The summer earnings portion of the Student Contribution is waived for first-year students with a $0 Parental Contribution.

Additionally, a Student Employment expectation reflects the amount students are expected to earn during the academic year.

Students have the option to meet some or all of their Student Responsibility through outside scholarships, the Work Exemption Program, and/or student loans.

Net Cost

Parent Contribution + Student Responsibility = 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.

Grant Assistance

After your Net Cost has been determined, we subtract that amount from the Cost of Attendance. The full difference will be covered by grant assistance that does not need to be repaid.