Archive for tuition

No one likes to talk about it, but it’s important to get accurate tuition information

SIPA, like most schools at Columbia, has its own Financial Aid Office to assist our students.  However, the office responsible for posting charges on student accounts, billing, collecting payments and issuing refunds, is Student Financial Services (SFS), a centralized office serving the entire University.  SIPA’s Financial Aid Office does not send you your tuition bills, collect payments, or the other procedures mentioned above.

The SFS website can be found at

Some important information related to your bill and your student account:

  • SFS will send an email to your Columbia email address (your UNI) on or about August 11 with a link to a preliminary bill, which must be paid in full by September 12.  You can see the billing schedule at
  • Accounts not paid in full by the due date are subject to late fees, which are assessed monthly.
  • Interest-free monthly payment plans are available (see
  • Financial aid that has been fully processed is credited to your account.  Please respond to all requests for documentation from the Financial Aid Office promptly, as failure to do so will prevent your aid from being credited to your account.
  • The state of New York requires all full-time students to have health insurance.  Your bill will include a charge for health insurance, which can be waived if you have equivalent coverage.  For more information, visit
  • If your aid in any semester exceeds your tuition and fees, you will receive a refund of that credit balance approximately one to two weeks into the semester.  Please plan your non-tuition expenses (rent, food, transportation, etc) accordingly.
  • You can receive refunds payments for which you qualify by direct deposit (recommended, otherwise you’ll receive them by a hard copy check through the mail); go to Student Services Online (SSOL) at to set this up.
  • SFS accepts electronic checks for payment via SSOL, but does not accept credit cards.
  • If your bill is being paid by a sponsor or third party, please see for important instructions.
  • See SFS’s website for mailing addresses if you are paying by mail.
  • Remember that the federal government deducts fees from loan disbursements, 1.073% for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and 4.292% on the Graduate PLUS loan.

Top 10 Communication Tips 2011 – #8

This is the eighth entry in our “Top 10″ list for you to consider when communicating with our office and applying.

Number 8 – Familiarize Yourself with Expenses and Start searching for fellowships/scholarships/grants as soon as possible!

There is no doubt about the fact that graduate school can be expensive.  We will do as much as we can to educate you on financial options, but by far the number one thing you can do is to be diligent in searching for fellowships and grants.  Do not wait to search until you have applied, you should start the search long before applying.  Each applicant should follow what I call the “rule of 2.”  Basically my assertion is that applicants should spend twice as much time applying for fellowships as time spent working on an admission application.  If it takes you 10 hours to prepare your admission application, you would be well served to spend 20 hours looking for fellowships – minimum.  A great resource to get you started is our external fellowship database.

Most of the information you need concerning the cost to attend is available on our Web site, such as cost of attendance, types of aid, scholarship information, and information specifically for international students.  Please do note that SIPA scholarships come from one general pool – there is no difference in the scholarship award process at SIPA for domestic and international students – all students are equally considered no matter the country of origin.  Everyone that applies for admission is considered for scholarship funding.

Paying for School

The admission season is filled with ups and downs for applicants.  You may receive admission offers from some schools and not from others.  Those who are admitted may experience the exhilaration of all their hard work paying off only to experience the worry of how to pay for the tuition and all of the related educational expenses.

When I speak with prospective students I always try to be upfront and state that I do not like surprises.  I do not want people to be surprised by the fact that the cost of attending SIPA for two years can well exceed $100,000.  This figure includes tuition, fees, housing, food, travel, health insurance and everything it will take to support your studies for approximately two years in a city known for high prices.

I also do not want to hide the fact that we are only able to award funding to approximately 10% of first year students.  I am happy to say that 70% of those who apply for funding in their second year at SIPA are awarded a scholarship.

Having worked in higher education for many years now, I can say that it is quite common to have very emotional conversations with students about money and financial aid.  I can both empathize and sympathize with students I speak with because I attended graduate school and took a considerable amount of loan funding to do so.  I am also happy to say I did apply for and receive scholarships to attend school.

Unfortunately when I speak with students and ask them about the effort they have put into searching for scholarships or other sources of free funding, very few are able to respond in the affirmative.  It is common to hear responses such as: “I simply don’t have time.”  “I don’t know where to look.”  “I started to look but there was nothing out there.”

For me searching for scholarships is like many other things in life – the effort you put in equals the result.  If you want an “A” in a class you have to put in the time.  If you want to find an apartment in New York City you have to search, talk to people, and expend a great deal of energy.

In a way searching for scholarships is like saving for retirement.  First, the sooner you start the better off you are.  Second, it is wise to keep researching for ways to make your money and opportunities grow.  So my question to you applicants out there is, “How much time have you spent looking for funding?”

My hope is that you have been looking but if not it is never too late to start.  My advice to you would be to make scholarship searches a part of your normal routine.  Most of us have things we like to do that we will not miss.  It can be watching a T.V. show, going to the gym, or taking time to write a letter to a friend.  Schedule a time once a week to look for scholarships and it literally can pay off.  Here are some ways to get started:

• Check out SIPA’s own fellowship database. We search for scholarships for you and post them to the database.  The database is not SIPA specific.  As we search for and hear about funding, we make the information available to you.

• Use RSS technology to deliver news to your email account or RSS Reader.  RSS allows for news to be delivered to you without having to go look for it every day.  As an example, Gmail accounts have something called the “Alert” tool and I am sure other providers have the same capability.  All you have to do is put in text for searches and a search engine will perform the searches daily and deliver news to your email account.  You can type in search terms like “Graduate School Scholarships” or “International Affairs Scholarships.”  You can also utilize an RSS reader.  They are free and if you do not know what an RSS reader is, click here for a YouTube tutorial.

• Talk to people you know who have gone to graduate school and find out if they were able to find scholarship opportunities.

• Contact people who are willing to write you a letter of recommendation and have them make multiple copies of the recommendation letter and give them to you in sealed envelops so you are ready if a scholarship opportunity arises and there is a tight deadline.

I will not say the process of searching is easy and it can take a considerable amount of effort.  However, if you wish to reduce the amount of loan funding you might need to pay for school it is well worth the effort.

"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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