Frequently Asked Questions

Can international families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

If you are a foreign student or transfer student who is admitted without institutional financial aid, you are not guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances. If you are a US citizen or a US permanent resident, you apply for financial aid every year, and you may be eligible for aid in later years. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note, however, that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

Related FAQs

How much is tuition?

For the academic year 2014-2015, the breakdown of billed costs is as follows:

Tuition and Fees: $51,008

Room and Board: $12,432

Books and Personal Expenses: $3,164

Estimated total cost of attendance: $67,125

Additionally, first-year students are assessed a one-time orientation and transcript fee of approximately $521. The purchase of medical insurance is also required for all students who do not have comparable coverage.

Can international families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

If you are a foreign student or transfer student who is admitted without institutional financial aid, you are not guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances. If you are a US citizen or a US permanent resident, you apply for financial aid every year, and you may be eligible for aid in later years. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note, however, that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

What forms/documents are required for financial aid consideration?

Please visit Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing website to see a complete listing of all forms required and the appropriate deadlines.

Will my financial aid package be any different if I apply for admission under the Early Decision Program?

No. Some families may think that their chances for financial aid might be worse when applying early, or that they should not ask for financial aid in the Early Decision process. Please be reassured that both Early and Regular Decision processes are need-blind and that financial aid packages are not any more or less comprehensive in the Early Decision process. Columbia College and The Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Science award need-based financial aid to all admitted first-year students.

We know Early Decision candidates have made Columbia their first choice, and we make every effort to help these families finance a Columbia education. If, after receiving the estimated Early Decision financial aid offer, an admitted student’s family has concerns about meeting the expected family contribution, we encourage the family to contact the Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing and speak with one of our counselors.

Can I be released from my Early Decision contract because of my financial aid package?

It is extremely rare for a family to ask to be released from the Early Decision commitment for financial reasons. If a family determines after discussion with the Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing that they cannot afford to finance a Columbia education, the admitted candidate can be released from the Early Decision agreement. The family must speak with a financial aid officer before the release is granted. Ultimately, it is the family’s decision whether or not they feel capable of accepting the need-based Columbia financial aid award.

Those who do opt out of their Early Decision contract are released to pursue other colleges and universities; the admission offer at Columbia University is then cancelled. A candidate who declines Columbia’s Early Decision offer will not be allowed to reconsider Columbia’s financial aid estimate in the spring Regular Decision cycle and will not be able to reinstate the original offer of admission.

Does Columbia provide support for students who have unpaid internships?

Columbia strongly believes that students should be able to follow their passions and experience jobs and opportunities that will lead them toward their professional goals. Columbia supports students with unpaid internships in two distinct ways. First, The Work Exemption Program (WEP) is part of the financial aid program for undergraduate students in Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. The program is designed to enable financial aid recipients to take advantage of such unpaid opportunities as internships, research projects, and community outreach, locally, nationally, and internationally. Students have the option of applying for exemption from the summer savings portion of their financial aid package or exemptions from Federal Work Study during the academic year. Secondly, all students at Columbia are encouraged to apply for the Alumni Internship Fund administered by the Center for Career Education (CCE). CCE also offers an array of alternative funding sources for students that may help fund a summer internship or fellowship.

Can families apply for financial aid in future years if they do not apply the first year?

Yes, under certain circumstances. A family that experiences a change in circumstances may apply for financial aid at any time. For example, it is not uncommon for a family to suffer a job loss or illness or for a younger sibling to begin attending college. Please note, however, that institutional aid will usually be awarded only in cases that involve an involuntary change in circumstances. Parents who decide to retire early or to invest in a business start-up may not be awarded institutional aid. It is a good idea to include a letter describing your family’s change in circumstances with any new financial aid application.

Please note: foreign students and transfer students who were admitted without institutional financial aid are not guaranteed institutional financial aid even if there is a change in circumstances.

Are there any scholarships available for transfers?

There are no academic, athletic or talent-based institutional scholarships at Columbia, as all of our institutional financial aid is need-based. However, our students are often the recipients of merit-based scholarships from outside organizations (state grants/scholarships, local/national merit-based awards, etc.).

Do you meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for transfers?

All transfer applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner. Foreign students applying for aid must understand that such aid is awarded on an extremely limited basis. Columbia meets 100% of demonstrated financial need for admitted transfer students and Columbia does not give any scholarships for academic, athletic or artistic merit.

Please visit the Financial Aid website for more information on financial aid for transfer students, including all required forms.

How can I afford to send my child to Columbia?

We know that choosing the right college involves a variety of factors, and the cost of the institution and how you will finance your student’s education are extremely important considerations. A student should never decide not to apply to Columbia because they think the cost exceeds their family’s ability to pay. Need-based aid makes it possible for everyone to afford a Columbia education.

Columbia reviews each admitted student’s family’s financial circumstances, determines your financial need, and awards aid to meet a family’s full demonstrated financial need. For many families, Columbia can be as affordable, if not more affordable, than a state-college or university education.

We make every effort to help meet students’ financial needs. In our quest to make Columbia affordable for all students, especially those from low-income and middle-income families, the University implemented the following financial aid enhancements for all incoming and continuing students:

  • Columbia eliminated loans for all students receiving financial aid packages, whatever their family income, and replaced them with University grants.
  • In an effort to further assist low-income families, parents with calculated total incomes below $60,000 (and typical assets) are not expected to contribute any of their income or assets to tuition, room, board and mandatory fees.
  • Families with calculated incomes between $60,000 and $100,000 (and typical assets) have a significantly reduced parent contribution.
  • To support students pursuing study abroad, research, internships and community service opportunities, Columbia offers the opportunity to apply for additional funding and exemptions from academic year and summer work expectations.

These enhancements build on previous financial aid initiatives and a long standing commitment to make Columbia affordable for all admitted students as illustrated by the following facts:

  • Columbia meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all students admitted as first years who applied for financial aid, including foreign students, and we continue to meet your 100% of your demonstrated financial need for all four years of study.
  • Columbia has the highest proportion of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants in the Ivy League and among the nation’s most elite private research institutions.
  • About half of Columbia undergraduates receive some sort of financial assistance.
  • Last year, Columbia committed over $122 million of its resources for grant aid to undergraduate students.
  • In 2007 alumnus John Kluge, CC’37, pledged $400 million to Columbia, all designated for financial aid. This marks the largest pledge ever devoted exclusively to student aid to any single institution of higher education in the United States.

What is the process for being selected through the Higher Education Opportunity Program or the National Opportunity Program?

The Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was established by the New York State Legislature in 1969 to assist eligible residents in obtaining higher education at New York private institutions. The National Opportunity Program was created by Columbia in 1986 to provide the same kind of academic and financial support to students from all over the United States. Selection for the HEOP/NOP programs at Columbia involves meeting both academic and economic guidelines.

There are no additional application forms for HEOP/NOP; all eligible applicants to Columbia will be considered for these programs. Applicants may be contacted for a telephone or in-person interview by a member of the Opportunity Programs and Undergraduate Services (OPUS) staff.

In order to be eligible for HEOP, applicants must:

  • Reside in New York State and be high school graduates.
  • Demonstrate (through academic records) a need for HEOP support services.
  • Meet economic eligibility criteria set by the New York State Education Department.

Economic documentation for HEOP and NOP

HEOP/NOP Economic Eligibility: Household income can be at or below the amounts listed for the number of family members, with the exception of the “single head of household” instruction.

Size of Household

Amount

1 household member$21,257
2 household members$28.694
3 household members$36,131
4 household members$43,568
5 household members$51,005
6 household members$58,442
7 household members$65,879 plus $7,437 for each additional family member thereafter

Please contact the Academic Success Program at 212-854-3514 or asp@columbia.edu with further questions or concerns.

Does Columbia provide support for students applying to major fellowships?

The Fellowships Office works with students at all levels in preparing for a variety of fellowship applications. In recent years, Columbia students have won more Fulbright grants than those of most other universities, in addition to many other prestigious fellowships and grants.

Is it possible to be able to work while going to class?

Columbia holds classes from early in the morning until late at night. This allows students to hold on-campus jobs, pursue internships in the city and adjust their schedules to make the most of their academic and extracurricular experience. Many students, moreover, have no classes on Fridays, so many use Fridays as an opportunity to pursue internships and other commitments. The Center for Career Education also provides students with opportunities for employment on and off campus.

Will my chances for admission be affected if I apply for financial aid?

All applicants who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or students granted refugee visas by the United States are read in a need-blind manner, no matter where they attend school or where they reside. The term “need-blind” means financial need has no bearing on the admissions decision. All other applicants are evaluated in a need-aware manner, which 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 foreign students who receive a substantial amount of financial aid.

Columbia is committed to meeting the full need of all applicants admitted as first-year students for all four years of study, regardless of citizenship.

As a foreign student, you should determine what amount you feel you and your family could afford to pay each year for four years of study. If you conclude that you and your family will be unable to assume the estimated total cost of attendance, you should apply for financial aid at the same time you apply for admission. If you are traveling to Columbia from another country, you will also want to consider travel expenses. If you do not apply for financial aid at the time of applying, you cannot be considered for financial aid in the future unless there has been a drastic and unforeseeable change in your family’s circumstances.

The Office of Financial Aid & Educational Financing website has information for foreign students interested in applying Early Decision and Regular Decision.