Tuition Exemption Benefits For Officers and Family Members

For Full-Time Officers of the University (includes Officers of Instruction, Administration, the Libraries and Research) and their Eligible Family Members

The Tuition Exemption Benefit Program pays tuition costs, depending on your eligibility, for your undergraduate and graduate courses at Columbia University, Barnard College, and
Teachers College.

Note that this is not a reimbursement or remission program; your tuition is simply exempted. However, you are responsible for all fees—for example course fees, textbooks and housing fees—where applicable.

To find out about the benefit available to you, read this policy document thoroughly before you apply for the benefit. This material will help you be fully prepared.

An eligible Officer’s family members may also qualify for Tuition Exemption.

To receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit, Officers and their eligible family members must first be accepted and enrolled in the school they wish to attend. For more information, see the Admissions page of the main Columbia website.

If an Officer’s child is registered as an undergraduate at an institution other than Columbia or Barnard College, he or she may be eligible for a College Tuition Scholarship (CTS). For full details, please consult the College Tuition Scholarship Program policy.

The benefit varies for Officers and their family members, so please review this policy carefully.

Columbia University reserves the right to change or terminate the Tuition Exemption Benefit Program at any time. Please note that The Tuition Exemption Benefit Program does not cover courses taken outside Columbia University, Barnard College or Teachers College.

In the event that the information contained in this policy conflicts with any other published information, this policy prevails.

Tuition Benefits

Most regular, full-time, salaried Officers are eligible, with varying benefits depending on their respective positions at the University.

Those officers who are ineligible include:

  • Visiting Officers of Instruction or Research
  • Part-Time Officers
  • Officers not on Columbia’s United States payroll
  • Officers who have not met applicable waiting periods

Eligibility depends on the Officer’s hire date and years of service, as well as their role at the University. The academic year begins with the fall term.

In general, Officers must meet a service requirement of two (2) years of full-time, continuous service1 before they become eligible for Tuition Exemption for themselves.

After the service requirement is met, eligibility begins at the start of the next full term that begins after the eligibility date.


1 An Officer will have a break in full-time continuous service if he or she voluntarily transfers to part-time status or terminates service for more than 31 days due to appointment ending, resignation, retirement, layoff, or involuntary termination. Effective after July 1, 2011, if an Officer involuntarily transfers to part-time status he or she will not be considered to have a break in full- time continuous service until he or she has been part-time for twelve (12) full months. Paid and unpaid leaves of absence are not considered a termination of service. Full-time continuous service as Support Staff immediately prior to a promotion to an Officer, shall count toward the two (2) year full-time continuous service requirement. A full-time post-doctoral fellow not on Columbia’s payroll will not have time prior to joining Columbia’s payroll counted toward the two (2) year full-time continuous service requirement.

The Tuition Exemption Benefit Program pays undergraduate or graduate tuition costs for Officers each term, depending on the hire date, degree matriculation2 and waiting period conditions outlined in the table below. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs at Columbia University (not Barnard College or Teachers College) are considered graduate degree programs for Tuition Exemption Benefit purposes.

The Program does not cover non-credit courses; course, lab or other school-specific fees; textbooks; housing fees; or tuition charged for auditing courses.

For more information on coverage, see Courses Not Covered below.

The below table assumes the applicable two-year waiting period has been met. Students may not be enrolled in degree and non-degree programs simultaneously.


2 Matriculation refers to being officially accepted, and enrolled in, a degree program. This requires a commitment to the program at the time of admission and enrolling in the correct number of courses based on the rules of the program to remain in good academic standing.

Officers of Instruction and Research

Summer Term comprises several overlapping sessions. Individual summer sessions do not count as “terms.” Tuition Exemption covers the available amount spread over the entire Summer Term, not the available amount for each session. For example, an Officer who is in a category eligible for one course per term would be able to receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit for one course during all the summer sessions. An Officer eligible for fifteen (15) points per term would be able to receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit for up to fifteen (15) points during the summer sessions.

The following courses are not covered for any Officer by the Tuition Exemption Benefit:

  • Non-credit courses
  • For-credit courses at Teachers College or Barnard College taken as a special student
  • Certificate programs at Teachers College or Barnard College
  • Courses with no point/credit value
  • Applied music courses (i.e., musical instrument instruction)
  • Courses whose course number begins with the letter “Q” or “N,” unless such a course is taken to fulfill a degree requirement
  • Any courses you audit
  • Any doctoral courses

PLEASE NOTE: These are estimates only; please refer to the tuition information and calendar of your school's Registrar. Please contact central Student Financial Services at [email protected] to arrange payment of a refund.

Repayment of Your Tuition Exemption Benefit

Once an Officer applies for the Tuition Exemption Benefit, he or she may drop a course before the close of the Change of Program Period without using the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

After the close of the Change of Program Period, the Officer must contact the school in which he or she is enrolled about dropping a course. Additionally, if the Officer drops a course after the end of the Change of Program Period, the Officer will be deemed to have used the Tuition Exemption Benefit for one course, even though the amount of the Tuition Exemption Benefit may be pro-rated based on the withdrawal date. This course will count toward any course limitation in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

If you need to drop a course after the end of the Change of Program period as described above, and you do not want the dropped course to count toward any Tuition Exemption Benefit course limitation, you must contact Student Financial Services and ask that the Tuition Exemption Benefit be removed from your student account. You then will be responsible for any remaining tuition liability. However, the dropped course will no longer count toward any course limits in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

Next Steps

Please see How to Apply (below) for details on how to apply for the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

Definition of Same-Sex Domestic Partners

Please see Benefits Highlights for Officers to understand the definitions of same-sex domestic partners for purposes of receiving University benefits. Tuition Exemption for same- sex domestic partners is taxable income under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations; please see Tax Treatment for more information.

Eligibility


Provided you are an eligible Officer as defined in this policy, your spouse’s or same-sex domestic partner’s eligibility for undergraduate or graduate tuition depends on your hire date, as detailed below.

  • Officers Hired, Rehired, Appointed, or Promoted After July 1, 2011: There are no undergraduate or graduate tuition benefits for the spouses or same-sex domestic partners of Officers hired, rehired, appointed or promoted after July 1, 2011.
  • Officers Hired On or Before July 1, 2011:
    Undergraduate Tuition

The Tuition Exemption Benefit pays 100% of tuition
costs for an eligible Officer’s spouse or same-sex domestic partner each term for an undergraduate degree program that began by the Fall Term 2011, at Columbia only, until that degree program is completed. Spouses and same-sex domestic partners who have received a bachelor’s degree from any accredited academic institution are not eligible for this Tuition Exemption Benefit.

Graduate Tuition
Course Numbers 4000 and Above
(unless taken to fulfill an undergraduate degree requirement)

Note: Post-baccalaureate certificate programs at Columbia University (not Barnard College or Teachers College) are considered graduate degree programs for this Tuition Exemption Benefit.

A spouse’s or same-sex domestic partner’s Tuition Exemption Benefit for graduate-level courses
depends on the Officer’s date of appointment as a full-time, regular Officer of the University.

Undergraduate Tuition (at Columbia only)

Graduate Tuition (at Columbia only)

The following courses are not covered by Tuition Exemption for spouses or same-sex domestic partners:

  • Courses or certificate programs offered at Teachers College, Barnard College or Columbia Law School
  • Courses with no point/credit value
  • Applied music courses (i.e., musical instrument instruction)
  • Continuing education courses (i.e., those beginning with the letter “Q” or “N,” unless such a course is taken to fulfill a degree requirement)
  • Any audited courses
  • Courses taken toward a second bachelor’s degree
  • Any doctoral courses

Changes in the Officer’s Employment Status That May Affect Eligibility

PLEASE NOTE: These are estimates only; please refer to the tuition policy and calendar of your school's Registrar. Please contact central Student Financial Services at tuitionexemption- [email protected] to arrange payment of a refund.

Per Term

Once a spouse or same-sex domestic partner applies for the Tuition Exemption Benefit, he or she may drop a course before the end of the Change of Program Period without using the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

After the close of the Change of Program Period, the student must contact the school in which he or she is enrolled about dropping a course. Additionally, if the spouse or same-sex domestic partner drops a course after the end of the Change of Program Period, the spouse or same-sex domestic partner will be deemed to have used the Tuition Exemption Benefit for one course, even though the amount of the Tuition Exemption Benefit may be pro-rated based on the withdrawal date. This course will count toward any course limitation in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

If you need to drop a course after the end of the Change of Program period as described above, and you do not want the dropped course to count toward any Tuition Exemption Benefit course limitation, you must contact Student Financial Services and ask that the Tuition Exemption Benefit be removed from the student account. You (the student) then will be responsible for any remaining tuition liability. However, the dropped course will no longer count toward any course limits in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

Please see "How to Apply" below for details on how to apply for the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

Important Notice for Children of Same-Sex Domestic Partners: Please see Benefits Highlights for Officers to understand the definitions of same-sex domestic partners for the purposes of receiving University benefits.

Eligibility and Waiting Periods

Provided you are an eligible Officer as defined in this policy, your children may be eligible for varying levels of Tuition Exemption at Columbia and Barnard College based on your hire date. The child also must meet the criteria in the following sections.

Waiting Periods:

  • An Officer hired, rehired, appointed or promoted to an Officer after July 1, 2011, must complete four years of full-time continuous employment, without a break in service longer than 31 days, before children are eligible. Full-time continuous employment as Support Staff immediately prior to promotion, counts toward this four-year waiting period.
  • An Officer hired, rehired, appointed, or promoted to an Officer on or before July 1, 2011, does not have a waiting period before children are eligible.

Eligible children are age 25 or under, at the time they begin matriculation for their undergraduate degree and are the biological children, adopted children or stepchildren, or are under the legal guardianship, of:

  • A full-time, salaried Officer of administration, instruction, the libraries, or research; or
  • The spouse or same-sex domestic partner of a full-time, salaried Officer (for example, stepchildren of Officers are eligible).

After a child attains age 26, they must maintain matriculation status in the degree program they started prior to attaining age 26 in order to be eligible for the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

Ineligible children are those who are over age 25 at the time they begin matriculation for their undergraduate degree, or are the children of:

  • A visiting Officer of instruction or research
  • A part-time Officer
  • A postdoctoral research fellow or postdoctoral clinical fellow
  • The spouse or same-sex domestic partner of a visiting Officer or postdoctoral research scientist/scholar, postdoctoral research fellow or postdoctoral clinical fellow

Additional Eligibility Requirements:

Regardless of the Officer’s hire date and the child’s age, the child must also meet the following requirements:

The child is registered in an undergraduate degree program at Columbia College, Barnard College, the School of General Studies, or the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences;

OR

The child has completed high school, is registered as a non-degree student in an undergraduate course (below 4000), at Columbia only, and can satisfy the following conditions:

  1. Demonstrate in writing on the letterhead of an external institution, that the child is a candidate in good standing at another accredited undergraduate institution, and that the courses taken at Columbia will fulfill part of the child’s academic program. The child may enroll through the School of Continuing Education as a visiting special student for up to two terms; or
  2. The child is enrolled in courses at Columbia that are required for admission into an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program at an external institution, as specified in writing by an admissions officer of the external program. An accredited institution is one that is accredited by an organization recognized by the American Council on Education.

Note that for Columbia University Officers’ children who attend Barnard College, the Tuition Exemption Benefit is limited to 8 Fall and Spring Terms. Courses taken at Barnard College during the summer are not counted against the 8-term limit.

 

Eligibility for graduate tuition is limited to the children of certain Officers hired prior to 1993, as detailed in “What’s Covered” below.

Undergraduate Tuition

Eligibility for graduate tuition depends on the Officer’s hire date as a full-time, regular Officer of the University:

 

Graduate Tuition

Officers whose hire, rehire, appointment, or promotion to an Officer is after July 1, 2011: A child eligible through two Officers—–biological or adopted parents, step-parents or legal guardians—can only receive Tuition Exemption through one parent’s eligibility.

Officers whose hire, rehire, appointment, or promotion to an Officer is on or before July 1, 2011 and who have not had a break in service of more than 31 days after July 1, 2011: A child eligible through two Officers, both meeting the above requirements—biological or adopted parents, step-parents or legal guardians—can receive Tuition Exemption through both. The two benefits will be added together, up to no more than 100% of tuition costs. A separate Tuition Exemption Form must be submitted for each Officer.

If an Officer’s child is registered as an undergraduate at an accredited institution other than Columbia or Barnard College, he or she may be eligible for a College Tuition Scholarship (CTS). For full details, please consult the College Tuition Scholarship Program policy.

If an Officer’s child is registered as an undergraduate at Columbia or Barnard College and takes a term to study abroad, the courses will be eligible for coverage under the Tuition Exemption Benefit if the courses count toward the undergraduate degree, and Columbia or Barnard bills the tuition costs. If another accredited academic institution bills the tuition costs, the child may be eligible for a College Tuition Scholarship (CTS).

In addition to College Tuition Scholarships, dependent children of Officers and their spouses or same-sex domestic partners may be eligible for Tuition Exemption as non-matriculated students in Columbia’s Summer Session. The child must provide written proof from their college or university on their institution’s letterhead that they are a student in good standing at another college or university, and that the courses must be taken as part of his or her academic program. The child may also receive Tuition Exemption if accepted as a Visiting Student in the Special Students Program during the Fall and Spring Terms. The student’s college need not grant point credit for the courses taken, and these terms do not count toward the eight-semester limit of eligibility for the College Tuition Scholarship Program.

Younger children residing in the five boroughs of New York City, and attending primary school grades K-8 in an accredited private school that is also within the five boroughs, may be eligible for a Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS). For full details, please consult the Primary Tuition Scholarship Program policy.

The following courses are not covered by Tuition Exemption for dependent children:

  • Courses offered at Teachers College
  • Certificate programs at Barnard College or Teachers College
  • Courses with no point/credit value
  • Applied music courses (i.e., musical instrument instruction)
  • Continuing education (i.e., those beginning with the letter “Q” or “N” unless such a course is taken to fulfill a degree requirement)
  • Any audited courses

Changes in the Officer’s Employment Status

PLEASE NOTE: These are estimates only; please refer to the tuition policy and calendar of your school's Registrar. Please contact central Student Financial Services at tuitionexemption- [email protected] to arrange payment of a refund.

Per Term

Next Steps

Please see "How to Apply" below for details on how to apply for the Tuition Exemption Benefit.

You must complete the application process for Tuition Exemption at the beginning of each term. This means your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and other materials must be submitted to the appropriate office at your school during the Change of Program Period (see the Academic Calendar for details).

If your application is not approved, you will be responsible for any tuition for courses you keep. Columbia University does not accept responsibility for denied coverage if you are found to be ineligible for the benefit.

Getting Started:
Applying for the Tuition Exemption Benefit Program

After you or your eligible family member has been accepted as a student and registered for classes, apply for Tuition Exemption each term by completing the following steps:


Note: Whether you are an Officer or an eligible family member, you will need to print, complete and sign your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System. Family members will need the Officer to print this form for them.

Every term:


1. Log in with your UNI and password to print your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System.


2. If you are a graduate student taking courses related to your work, complete a Job-Related Graduate Course Certification  form (also see Tax Treatment below). This form must be completed by you and your supervisor, signed in ink and dated by you and your supervisor. Attach the form to your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form.


3. Submit the completed and signed Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and, if it applies, your signed original Job-Related Graduate Course Certification form, to the Student Service Center in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside), or Registration & Financial Services @ CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), during the Change of Program Period each term (see the Academic Calendar for details).

Every term:


1. The Officer must log in with his or her UNI and password to print your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System. The online enrollment system contains your eligibility verification. Note: If you are the eligible child of two eligible Officers hired on or before July 1, 2011, each Officer must print, complete and sign the form.

2. If your eligibility does not appear in the system, the eligible Officer of your family will need to submit proof of your relationship to Columbia Benefits Service Center, which may consist of the following:

 

  • For a spouse — marriage certificate;
  • For a same-sex domestic partner — See Benefits Highlights for Officers for guidelines.
  • For a dependent child — birth certificate; adoption papers or guardianship papers
  • For a dependent stepchild — birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers and marriage certificate;
  • For a child of a same-sex domestic partner — birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers, and domestic partnership documentation as described in Benefits Highlights

Once your dependent status is verified with the Columbia Benefits Service Center, the Officer will be able to print out the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form with the appropriate dependents.

3. If you are an eligible child not enrolled in a degree program but taking courses at Columbia, you must provide additional documentation from another accredited college or university. This documentation must be on the other school’s letterhead; it must show that you are either a candidate in good standing at the other school (and that the courses you are taking are part of your academic program), or that you are enrolled in courses specified in writing by an admissions officer as required for admission into an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program. The other school must be accredited by an organization recognized by the American Council on Education.


4. Submit the completed and signed Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form to Student Financial Services in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside), or Registration & Financial Services @ CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), during the Change of Program Period each term (see the Academic Calendar for details).

Retired Officers should print the applicable form and obtain eligibility confirmation from Columbia Benefits Service Center:

 


Officers recently promoted from Support Staff roles who qualify for Support Staff Tuition Exemption for their eligible family members should contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center, 212-851-7000 or [email protected], for instructions on how to apply.

If you do not want to continue a course, you should arrange with the appropriate School and the Registrar to drop it by the end of the first week of classes to avoid any possibility of financial responsibility, and to avoid having the course count toward the course limits.


Note: Dropping all of your courses means withdrawing from the University. The University may charge a $75 fee for withdrawals depending on when you withdraw from the University, and this fee is not covered under this Tuition Exemption Benefit Program.

For CTS/PTS Program procedures, see the College Tuition Scholarship or the Primary Tuition Scholarship

Tax Disclaimer


If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) challenges the University’s interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code with regard to tuition benefits, you may be liable for income tax on the cash value of the benefits, plus any penalty and interest assessed. Please consult your tax advisor for specific IRS tax regulations.

Officers, Spouses, and Their Children


As per IRS regulations, the Tuition Exemption Benefit for an undergraduate course is not treated as taxable income, unless the student covered by an Officer’s Tuition Exemption Benefit is taking the course as part of a graduate degree program.


Same-Sex Domestic Partners and Their Children


The value of any Tuition Exemption Benefit for same-sex domestic partners and their children is treated as part of the Officer’s taxable income by the federal government and, therefore, Columbia University will withhold taxes.

Officers


The first $5,250 in a calendar year is exempt from taxation according to IRS regulations. Any additional Tuition Exemption in a calendar year that pays for graduate-level courses is treated as taxable income, with the following exceptions:

 

  • The benefit is not taxable if the Officer is taking graduate-level courses as part of an undergraduate degree program.
  • The benefit is not taxable if the Officer takes graduate-level courses that are considered “job related,” fulfilling the following two conditions established by the IRS:
  1. The course either maintains or improves skills required in your current position and/or is required by the University, or by law or regulations, to keep your current job or salary; and
  2. The course does not enable you to meet the minimum education requirements for your current job, and does not qualify you for a new trade or business.

Note: Graduate courses taken as part of a doctoral program cannot be job-related. According to IRS regulations, they always qualify the student for a new trade or business.


In the event an Officer takes a graduate course that meets the above conditions for tax exemption, the Officer must fill out and submit a Job-Related Graduate Course Certification in order to avoid tax withholding. The completed form, signed in ink by the Officer’s supervisor and submitted to Student Financial Services in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside) or Registration & Financial Services @ CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), ensures that no taxes related to the tuition benefit will be withheld from the Officer’s paycheck. This form should be attached to and submitted with the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form.

Officers’ Spouses and Children

The value of all Tuition Exemption that pays for graduate-level courses for an Officer’s spouse and children is treated as part of the Officer’s taxable income, unless a graduate-level course is taken as part of an undergraduate degree program. Therefore, Columbia will withhold taxes based on the flat tax rates.


Officers’ Same-sex Domestic Partners and Their Children


The value of any Tuition Exemption for same-sex domestic partners and their children is treated as part of the Officer’s taxable income by the federal government. Therefore, Columbia will withhold taxes based on the flat tax rates.

Income Tax Withholding for Officers


The cash equivalent of any taxable Tuition Exemption Benefit (as explained above) will be included in the Officer’s income statement, on the pay stub under “Taxable Tuition.” This will affect the amount of federal, state, local and FICA taxes deducted from the Officer’s pay.


The taxation of the Tuition Exemption Benefit is determined on an annualized basis. The amount of taxable tuition is added to the Officer’s base salary. The resulting total is taxed according to the annualized table, which is based on the Officer’s income level. The University will withhold taxes based on the federal, state and New York City (if you reside in NYC) flat tax rates. The full value of the Tuition Exemption Benefit will also be subject to FICA and Medicare payroll taxes. For information about tax rates, please visit the Columbia Payroll website at: http://finance.columbia.edu/controller/payroll/index.html


The University will spread the tax liability for tuition benefits over as many pay periods as possible:

 

  • Fall Term: Taxes Withheld October through December
  • Spring Term: Taxes withheld January through May
  • Summer Term: Taxes withheld June through September


If the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and Job-Related Graduate Course Certification are not submitted by the end of the Change of Program period each term, the University will withhold taxes. Officers who can prove the courses are job-related may be eligible to deduct the income from their reported taxable income on their Form 1040 filing.


Taxable Tuition is reflected on Form 1098T issued by Columbia University.

In cases where the Officer does not receive a W-2 form—due to an unpaid leave of absence, retirement, or death—the University reports the Tuition Exemption as income to the government using a Form 1099, a copy of which is sent to the Officer (or to the student, if the Officer is deceased) at the end of the calendar year.


Questions about the amount of taxable tuition reported to the Payroll Office should be directed to the Tuition Exemption area of central Student Financial Services at (212) 854-6548 or [email protected]

(Effective after July 2, 2012)

For Full-Time Officers of the University (includes Officers of Instruction, Administration, the Libraries and Research)

As a supplement to the Tuition Exemption Benefit, a reduced Employee Rate for tuition costs may be available, depending on your eligibility, for undergraduate and graduate courses you take, at Columbia University only. This employee tuition rate is available before waiting periods for Tuition Exemption are met, as well as after waiting periods for Officers taking a number of courses that exceeds the Tuition Exemption course limits.

Note that this is not a reimbursement or remission program; a portion of your tuition (35%) is simply exempted. However, you are responsible for the remaining tuition (65%) and all fees—for example course fees, textbooks and housing fees—where applicable.

To find out about the benefit available to you, read this Appendix thoroughly before you apply for the benefit. This material will help you be fully prepared. To receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit or this Employee Rate, Officers must first be accepted and enrolled in the school they wish to attend. For more information, see the Admissions page of the main Columbia website. Columbia University reserves the right to change or terminate the Reduced Employee Tuition Rates at any time. Please note that the Reduced Employee Tuition Rate Program does not cover courses taken outside Columbia University.

In the event that the information contained in this policy conflicts with any other published information, this policy prevails.

Most regular, full-time, salaried Officers are eligible for this Employee Rate of 65% of tuition costs. The reduced rate is available in two instances:

  • Before the two (2) year Tuition Exemption Benefit waiting period is met, the 65% Employee Rate can help cover the cost of courses outside Tuition Exemption
  • After the waiting period is met, the 65% Employee Rate can help cover the cost of courses over the Tuition Exemption Benefit limit

Those officers who are ineligible include:

  • Visiting Officers of Instruction or Research
  • Part-Time Officers
  • Officers not on Columbia’s United States payroll

The Reduced Employee Tuition Rates Program pays 35% of the undergraduate or graduate tuition costs, at Columbia only, for Officers each term. This means the Officer is responsible for 65% of the tuition costs. Post-baccalaureate certificate programs at Columbia University are considered graduate degree programs for Tuition Exemption Benefit purposes.

The Program does not cover non-credit courses; course, lab or other school-specific fees; textbooks; housing fees; or tuition charged for auditing courses. For more information on coverage, see Courses Not Covered.

Summer Term comprises several overlapping sessions. Individual summer sessions do not count as “terms.” The reduced Employee Tuition rate covers the available amount spread over the entire Summer Term, not the available amount for each session. For example, an Officer who is in a category eligible for the reduced Employee Tuition rate for one course would be able to receive the reduced Employee Tuition rate for one course during all the summer sessions.

The following courses are not covered for any Officer by the Tuition Exemption Benefit OR by the 65% Employee Rate Program:

  • Non-credit courses
  • All courses at Teachers College or Barnard College
  • Courses with no point/credit value
  • Applied music courses (i.e., musical instrument instruction)
  • Courses whose course number begins with the letter “Q” or “N,” unless such a course is taken to fulfill a degree requirement
  •  Any courses you audit
  • All doctoral courses

Changes in Employment Status That May Affect Eligibility

Please see How to Apply for details on how to apply for the reduced Employee Tuition Rates.

You must complete the application process for the reduced Employee Tuition rates at the beginning of each term. This means your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and other materials must be submitted to the appropriate office at your school during the Change of Program Period (see the Academic Calendar for details).


If your application is not approved, you will be responsible for any tuition for courses you keep.
Columbia University does not accept responsibility for denied coverage if you are found to be ineligible for the reduced Employee Tuition rate.

After you have been accepted as a student and registered for classes, apply for the reduced Employee Tuition Rate each term by completing the following steps:


Note: You will need to print, complete and sign your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System.

Officers: How to Apply

Every term:
 

  1. Log in with your UNI and password to print your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System.
  2. If you are a graduate student taking courses related to your work, complete a Job-Related Graduate Course Certification (PDF) form (also see Tax Treatment). This form must be completed by you and your supervisor signed in ink and dated by you and your supervisor. Attach the form to your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form.
  3. Submit the completed and signed Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and, if it applies, your signed original Job-Related Graduate Course Certification form, to the Student Service Center in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside), or Registration & Financial Services @ CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), during the Change of Program Period each term (see the Academic Calendar for details).

If you do not want to continue a course, you should arrange with the appropriate School and the Registrar to drop it by the end of the first week of classes to avoid any possibility of financial responsibility.


Note: Dropping all of your courses means withdrawing from the University. The University charges a $75 fee for all withdrawals from the University, and this fee is not covered under this Tuition Exemption Benefit Program.

Tax Disclaimer

If the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) challenges the University’s interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code with regard to tuition benefits, you may be liable for income tax on the cash value of the benefits, plus any penalty and interest assessed. Please consult your tax advisor for specific IRS tax regulations.

Taxation of Undergraduate Courses (Below 4000)
Officers


As per IRS regulations, the Tuition rate Reduction amount (35% of Tuition costs) for an undergraduate course is not treated as taxable income, unless the student covered by an Officer’s Tuition Exemption Benefit is taking the course as part of a graduate degree program.

Taxation of Graduate Courses (4000 & Above)
Officers


The first $5,250 in a calendar year is exempt from taxation according to IRS regulations. Any additional Tuition rate reduction amount in a calendar year that pays for graduate-level courses is treated as taxable income, with the following exceptions:

 

  • The benefit is not taxable if the Officer is taking graduate-level courses as part of an undergraduate degree program.
  • The benefit is not taxable if the Officer takes graduate-level courses that are considered “job related,” fulfilling the following two conditions established by the IRS:
  1. The course either maintains or improves skills required in your current position and/or is required by the University, or by law or regulations, to keep your current job or salary; and
  2. The course does not enable you to meet the minimum education requirements for your current job, and does not qualify you for a new trade or business.
  3. Note: Graduate courses taken as part of a doctoral program cannot be job-related. According to IRS regulations, they always qualify the student for a new trade or business.


In the event an Officer takes a graduate course that meets the above conditions for tax exemption, the Officer must fill out and submit a Job-Related Graduate Course Certification in order to avoid tax withholding. The completed form, signed in ink by the Officer’s supervisor and submitted to the Student Service Center in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside) or Registration & Financial Services @ CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), ensures that no taxes related to the tuition benefit will be withheld from the Officer’s paycheck. This form should be attached to and submitted with the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form.

Income Tax Withholding for Officers

The cash equivalent of any taxable Tuition Employee reduction amount (as explained above) will be included in the Officer’s income statement, on the pay stub under “Taxable Tuition.” This will affect the amount of federal, state, local and FICA taxes deducted from the Officer’s pay.

The taxation of the Tuition Employee reduction amount is determined on an annualized basis. The amount of taxable tuition is added to the Officer’s base salary. The resulting total is taxed according to the annualized table, which is based on the Officer’s income level. The University will withhold taxes based on the federal; state and New York City (if you reside in NYC) flat tax rates. The full value of the Tuition Exemption Benefit will also be subject to FICA and Medicare payroll taxes. For information about tax rates, please visit the Columbia Payroll website at:
http://finance.columbia.edu/controller/payroll/index.html.

The University will spread the tax liability for tuition benefits over as many pay periods as possible:

  • Fall Term: Taxes Withheld October through December
  • Spring Term: Taxes withheld January through May  
  • Summer Term: Taxes withheld June through September

If the Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and Job-Related Graduate Course Certification  are not submitted by the end of the Change of Program period each term, the University will withhold taxes. Officers who can prove the courses are job-related may be eligible to deduct the income from their reported taxable income on their Form 1040 filing.


Taxable Tuition is reflected on Form 1098T issued by Columbia University.

Questions about the amount of taxable tuition reported to the Payroll Office should be directed to the Tuition Exemption area of central Student Financial Services at (212) 854-6548 or [email protected].