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Graduate Students

Please explore this page for helpful information related to financial aid and student accounts for graduate students.

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Financial Planning Services for Graduate Students

Student Financial Services (SFS) is a good resource to help you determine what you will owe, what funding is available, and to even help you with some aspects of your personal financial life.

Although any SFS representative can assist you with your questions, Paul Loretto serves as our primary liaison to graduate students. Paul can be reached at or 312-369-8791.

We also recommend that you sign up for SALT at for free financial, job and scholarship resources. There are helpful online courses, articles, tools, calculators and community boards to help you organize your financial and personal goals.

Scholarships Available to Graduate Students

Students who are admitted to a graduate program at Columbia are automatically considered for a graduate assistantship. Once you are attending Columbia as a graduate student, you will also be able to apply for donor-based scholarships. Visit our scholarship website and click “graduate” in the scholarship finder to view some of these opportunities.

A Graduate Assistantship provides a full scholarship up to the number of credit hours required for a student’s academic program. Additionally, it provides a paid, part-time job on campus for 10 or more hours per week. Graduate Assistantships are awarded to outstanding applicants by the academic department at the time of admission. You will be contacted by the Graduate Admissions Office if you are selected for the Graduate Assistantship.

Please note that the scholarship portion of the Graduate Assistantship is applied to tuition only and cannot be applied to fees associated with the student’s program or enrollment in the college. If a student receives other funding that is limited to tuition, the Graduate Assistantship may be reduced.

Federal Loans Available to Graduate Students

Graduate students may be eligible for two federal loan programs. For both programs, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step.

Many graduate students choose to borrow an Unsubsidized Direct Loan. You may qualify for up to $20,500 per academic year from the Unsubsidized Direct Loan program. If you are offered an Unsubsidized Direct Loan and would like to accept the loan, you will need to complete Loan Entrance Counseling and a Master Promissory Note at No credit application is required to receive an Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

Graduate students may also choose to apply for a Graduate PLUS loan. If you are interested in applying for a Graduate PLUS loan, you must complete a separate application at The Graduate PLUS loan does require a credit application, which means that an applicant may be denied based on his or her credit. If approved, the Graduate PLUS Loan will require the borrower to complete a Master Promissory Note at A graduate student may borrow a Graduate PLUS Loan up to his or her cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid.

Cost of Attendance for Graduate Programs

The annual cost of attendance (COA) for your graduate program includes both your tuition and fees and an estimate of your personal expenses for the year. For example, the average 9 month graduate student COA for the 2017/18 academic year was approximately $46,694. This number includes $28,076 in tuition and fees and $18,618 in other estimated expenses including housing costs, books and supplies, and transportation costs. You may also hear the cost of attendance referred to as your budget.

Your COA is also based on your planned enrollment for the academic year. If you are in a graduate program that requires attendance for the Fall and Spring semesters, your COA will include 9 months. If you are in a graduate program that requires Fall, Spring and Summer enrollment, your COA will include 12 months.

A student’s financial aid for the academic year cannot exceed the COA established by the college. Your financial aid award letter lists the COA based on a 9-credit hour semester, and is adjusted after the add/drop period ends. Please note, adjusting your schedule may impact your COA and will therefore impact your financial aid eligibility for the academic year. We consider your award to be tentative until after the add/drop period. Please reach out to SFS if you have any questions regarding the impact of enrollment changes on your award.

Paying Your Bill

Columbia requires that all students who have charges that are not covered by financial aid or a third-party benefit must either pay their out-of-pocket cost in full or establish an automated payment plan on or before August 1 for the Fall semester, December 28 for the Spring semester, and May 13 for the Summer semester.

If you are planning to use financial aid to cover your bill, it is essential that you have secured all of your financial aid prior to the payment deadline each semester to avoid fees and a hold on your account. If a third-party payer, such as an employer, is helping you cover your bill and you need SFS to confirm your enrollment or balance due to your payer, but sure to review our instructions.

You can make a one-time payment or sign up for an automated payment plan through your CCCPay account. To navigate to your CCCPay account, log in to OASIS, click on Student Financial Services, and then click on CCCPay Online Billing and Payment.

Please note, if you receive a Graduate Assistantship or a Graduate Merit Award, your scholarship will adjust to cover your full tuition after the add/drop period for the semester. You are only responsible for paying the portion of your bill that will not be covered by your scholarship. SFS is happy to assist you in calculating the correct amount to pay by the payment deadline.

Receiving Your Refund

You can expect to receive a refund once your refundable financial aid (usually student loans) disbursed to your account exceeds your charges for the term. Federal student loans and private student loans usually disburse within 10 days prior to the start of a semester, so if you are eligible to receive a refund you can usually expect it the week before the semester begins.

If you are receiving a Graduate Assistantship or a Graduate Merit Award, you may be entitled to an additional refund once your scholarship is adjusted following the add/drop period.

If you have an extenuating circumstance that requires that you receive your financial aid refund on an earlier timeline, please inquire with SFS.

We strongly recommend that you sign up for Direct Deposit to receive your refunds faster and more securely.

Graduate Students Frequently Asked Questions