SIPA Fellowships – A Primer

I like to be as transparent as possible concerning admissions and financial aid at SIPA – I am not a cloak and dagger type of guy.  I like two button sport coats, bright ties, and sneakers . . . but this is not about my fashion sense.

I know that paying for school is a big issue, both from a personal and professional standpoint.  As I stated in a recent entry, I attended graduate school and borrowed a substantial amount of money to do so.  Professionally, it is almost impossible to talk with a prospective student and not have the topic of the cost of education come up.

In order to provide some additional insight into the situation at SIPA I thought I would post some basic information about fellowships.  There are a lot of words in this entry and no pictures, so hang in there and read carefully and I think you will find the information valuable.

First I will note that we are not able to give out near the amount of money we would like to give to first year students.  Each year we award approximately 15% of incoming students funding and the average award is around $15,000.  Below are two examples of common emails we receive after admission decisions have been sent out:

  • I am very happy to have been admitted to SIPA, however is there any way that the admissions committee can reconsider me for fellowship funding (or increase an award I have been given)?
  • I have been admitted to SIPA and to another school and the other school is offering me funding.  Can SIPA match the funding provided by the other school?
  • Can I work as a program assistant or teaching assistant at SIPA to earn money?

The SIPA Admissions Committee actually spends twice the amount of fellowship money we have.  Why do we do this?  Because history shows that not everyone we award funding to will attend.  Thus we greatly overspend which means that if an applicant declines their award, we cannot simply shift that money to another applicant.

Regarding the second question, each school has a different committee, different applicant pool, and different budget.  In my Apples and Oranges entry a while back I talked about how comparing an offer from one school to another may seem like a logical thing to do, but the comparison is fraught with complications and variables.  And as stated above, as much as we are excited about having you come, we simply cannot base our decision on the capability of another school to provide funding.

So what about the second year?  I am happy to say that the majority of second year students at SIPA that are qualified to apply for fellowship do receive funding.  So how do you qualify?  In order to apply for second year funding at SIPA a first year student must have a 3.2 GPA at the end of the first semester.  If you meet the GPA requirement, you will submit an application to the Office of Student Affairs at SIPA in March of your first year.  Roughly 70% of those who apply are awarded funding and the average award is around $20,000.  The highest second year awards are roughly $42,000 for the year.

Second year students who are awarded fellowship funds typically have some sort of work requirement associated with the fellowship.  This can include working for a professor as a teaching assistant (TA) or in administrative department such as admissions, career services, or institutional technology as a program assistant (PA).

This relates to the third question – TA and PA positions at SIPA are reserved for second year students.  First year SIPA students are welcome to apply for positions across the university (Columbia University is made up of 17 schools) however the positions at SIPA are reserved for students in the second year of the program.

This is a good time to put in a plug for our summer math tutorial.  Since second year funding is so dependent on academic performance, it behooves you to do all that you can to make sure you do well in the first semester –  a semester in which you will be taking a heavy dose of core requirements which are quantitatively heavy.  In May admitted applicants who have chosen to enroll will be sent instructions on how to participate in an on-line summer math tutorial.

I cannot recommend highly enough that applicants who plan on enrolling participate in the summer math tutorial.  Even if you took many quantitatively oriented classes in the past, it would do you well to knock off a little bit of rust.  Again I can speak from personal experience.  I started my graduate program when I was 28 and boy was it a shock to my system when the syllabus of the first class hit my desk.

And for those who might not have completed an economics sequence, high level math class, or a statistics class, taking a summer class from a college near you is a great idea.  Courses might include microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, linear algebra, precalculus, or calculus.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into the process at SIPA and please click here to explore information related to cost of attendance at SIPA.  The financial aid staff in my office will work on getting aid information out after admission decisions are published on the application site.

Coming off of the weekend I am going to spend a good portion of Monday evaluating our decision publishing schedule this week and will provide an update soon so stayed tuned.