Archive for FAFSA – Page 2

Funding your education at SIPA – part 4

Student Loans

About 40% of SIPA students use student loans as part of their financing strategy, and there are a number of options available to them.  Most borrow fixed rate loans from the federal government, which offer flexible repayment options.  Most federal loans are not credit-based, but have annual limits to the amount that can be borrowed; the Graduate PLUS loan is the exception to both of these rules.  But other credit-based loans are available from private lenders, some of which may be available to international students so long as they have a US citizen who can co-sign the loan for them.

For students who are US citizens, permanent resident aliens, or political refugees, the federal government makes a number of loan programs available that students can use, if necessary, to fund the full cost of their education, including living expenses.  In order to be considered for any loan from the federal government, a student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  There are three different federal loan programs available to graduate students.  They are:

  •  The Unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan (a/k/a Stafford Loan); currently at 6.8% interest, which accumulates during enrollment (hence “unsubsidized”, Congress eliminated the interest subsidy to graduate students starting 7/1/12).  While you are enrolled, you will have the option of paying your interest (less expensive long-term option) or capitalizing the interest (adding it to the principal).  Unsubsidized Direct Loans are available for up to $20,500 per academic year.  Visit for more information.


  •  The Federal Graduate PLUS Loan; currently at 7.9% interest, and like the Unsubsidized Direct Loans, interest will be accumulating during your enrollment.  The Graduate PLUS Loan can cover the full difference between your total cost of attendance (which includes tuition, fees, books) minus other aid or loans received, but unlike other student loans available from the federal government, the Graduate PLUS loan is credit based.  For more information, visit or click here.


  •  The Federal Perkins Loan; offered at 5% interest, which is fully deferred while you are enrolled.  Perkins Loans are only available to a limited number of students, based on financial need.  Annual loan amounts typically range between $2,000 and $6,000; for more information, click here.

There are also loans available from private lenders.  Private loans do not require completion of the FAFSA, and some are available to international students who have a US citizen who can co-sign the loan form them (click here for some loans available to international students).  Most private loans do not have strict annual limits and can be borrowed for the full cost of attendance minus other aid.  At this time, interest rates tend to be lower than those of federal loans, but federal loan interest rates are fixed, and private loans (which are much less regulated) are variable.  Private loans also tend to offer borrowers less flexibility and fewer features during repayment than federal loans.  All students are free to select their own loan products and lenders, but due to repayment flexibility and the certainty of fixed interest rates, most SIPA students have opted to use federal loans.

In a future blog post, we will discuss student loan repayment; there are many repayment options available for federal loans that can make your student loans manageable, even one that could forgive some of your indebtedness.


Funding your education at SIPA – part 3

Applying for Financial Aid – Spring 2013 Applicants

Applying for financial aid doesn’t involve too many steps.  If you are applying for Spring 2013 admission, you will need to complete the 2012/13 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA.  To do so, go to  This universal aid application is used at just about every college in the United States and even some in other countries where American students can receive aid.  The information collected on the FAFSA will be used by the SIPA Financial Aid Office to determine your eligibility for student loans available from the federal government and possible work study jobs.

When you complete the FAFSA, you designate the recipient school by using a 6-digit code number specific to the school.  Columbia’s school code is 002707.

If you completed the FAFSA as an undergraduate, you’ll be familiar with the process, although as a graduate student, no parental information is necessary.  All graduate students are automatically considered to be financially independent.  If you have a PIN number that you used as an undergraduate, use the same one.  If have never completed a FAFSA before, you will need a PIN in order to complete the FAFSA; you must go to, which is linked from

Do not wait until you have received an admission decision to complete your FAFSA.  While there is no absolute deadline approaching, you should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible; we recommend that you do so by November 1 for a timely review.  Also be aware that this is an annual form, and you will need to complete the 2013/14 FAFSA for the following fall and spring semesters; you should do that after completing your 2012 federal income tax return next April.

And please…especially if you are completing the FAFSA for the first time, it can be confusing.  If you have any questions or need any assistance, contact us at 212-854-6216 or email us at


Note: Don’t complete a FAFSA if you are an international student; it is only used to determine eligibility for student loans and Work Study available to US citizens, permanent residents and political refugees.

If you are applying for Fall 2013 admission, complete the FAFSA for the 2013/14 academic year after January 1; we recommend that you do so by March 1.  We will post a reminder for Fall 2013 applicants as the time to complete your FAFSA approaches.

Funding your education at SIPA – part 1

The students who plan ahead for the costs of a SIPA education are the ones who are best prepared.  A SIPA education is not inexpensive, but there are fellowship or scholarship opportunities, as well as financing strategies, that can make it affordable and manageable.

Once you have been admitted, SIPA will provide you with an estimate of what you will spend on tuition, fees, textbooks and typical living expenses to help you get started in your financial planning, along with information about the aid for which you qualify.  Budgeting your resources is the first step in planning how to manage the costs of your SIPA program.  Remember that New York is an expensive city to live in, but there are on-campus residence options, and Columbia is located in a thriving and bustling residential neighborhood.  Many students live within walking distance of the campus.

In preparing your financing strategy, look at all options, including resources you currently have available.  Examine financial resources you have on hand in salary, savings or assistance from your family in addition to the types of fellowships, scholarships and loans available from SIPA, government sources or private external agencies.  Many SIPA students create a strategy employing three or four of these components.

First Year Fellowship and Scholarship Awards

SIPA scholarship and fellowship awards are competitive and offered to approximately 10 to 15 percent of first year students.  All admitted students are automatically considered, no additional application is required.  These merit-based awards are based entirely on your academic achievement and professional credentials; financial need is not a factor.  SIPA scholarships range in value from $3000 per year up to full tuition; most fall approximately midway in between.  If you are a US citizen/permanent resident, you may submit a FAFSA for student loans, but the FAFSA is not reviewed nor required for fellowship/scholarship determination.

SIPA scholarship and fellowship awards are available to both domestic and international students.

SIPA has arrangements with some external agencies, such as the Rangel, Pickering, Fulbright and other foundations, where we will match part of the award a student receives from that entity.  Please advise us if you have such funding (from these or similar sources) as soon as you are aware of the award so we can consider you for matching funds.

External Awards

While searching for funding from outside foundations and organizations comes with no guarantees, such funding is only a possibility if you take the time to search for it.  The SIPA Financial Aid Office maintains a database of external scholarships and fellowships that we recommend students visit often.  These funding opportunities may be available to all students, first or second year, domestic or international, and may be based on any combination of academic achievement, professional credentials, areas of interest and experience, financial need, or demographic criteria.  SIPA students receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding through outside sources of their own finding every year, and it is not too early to begin your search for these resources.

You may also want to visit the following sites:


Time Line

The Admissions Committee has been meeting all week and we continue to publish decisions as soon as we are able.  As a reminder, you will receive an email from us when your decision is ready to be viewed on the application Web site.  We cannot provide estimates on when individual decisions will be published.

I did want to provide a quick overview of the time line that will follow in the coming month or so. The following information is provided on an admitted student welcome page but I thought I would provide some highlights.

First, admitted students will have the opportunity to participate in a Web based Message Board starting later in March.  The purpose of the board is to give admitted students the opportunity to interact with one another and with current students.  SIPA students will be taking a spring break from March 16th to 20th and we will have the board up shortly after their return.  Details will be sent to admitted students once the board is activated.

Second, SIPA will host an Open House for admitted students on Tuesday, April 14th.  The Open House will take place on the Columbia Campus and it will be a full day event.

Third, April 20th is the date by which admitted students must pay a deposit confirming enrollment for fall 2009.

Finally, an email regarding financial aid opportunities is sent shortly after the admission letter is published.  The letter is meant to outline the general funds available to SIPA students.  More specific letters will follow at a later time for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents who have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If admitted students have been awarded a SIPA fellowship this information will be in the admission letter.

Now back to Committee meetings . . .

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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