Eligibility for Federal Aid

To be considered for federal financial aid, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen admitted as at least a half-time student in a degree program. If you are taking courses but are not yet admitted into a degree program, then you do not qualify for federal or state aid.

It is your responsibility to supply accurate and complete information on the FAFSA and to notify your financial aid office immediately of any changes in your enrollment plans, housing status, or financial situation, including information about any institutional or outside scholarships you will be receiving.

Determination of your financial need may be based upon the number of courses for which you register. If you enroll in fewer courses than you initially reported, your financial aid may be reduced or eliminated.

University-administered federal awards are not automatically renewed each year. Continuing students must submit a Renewal FAFSA each year by their financial aid office's deadline. Renewal depends on the annual re-evaluation of your need, the availability of funds, and satisfactory progress toward the completion of your degree requirements.


The information in your financial aid file may be disclosed to third parties as authorized under routine uses in the Privacy Act notices called "Title IV Program Files" (originally published on April 12, 2004, Federal Register, Vol 59 p. 17351) and "National Student Loan Data System" (originally published on December 20, 1994, Federal Register, Vol 59 p. 65532). Thus, this information may be disclosed to federal and state agencies, private parties such as relatives, present and former employers and creditors, and contractors of the Department of Education for purposes of administration of the student financial assistance program, for enforcement purposes, for litigation where such disclosure is compatible with the purposes for which the records were collected, for use by federal, state, local, or foreign agencies in connection with employment matters or the issuance of a license, grant, or other benefit, for use in any employee grievance or discipline proceeding in which the Federal Government is a party, for use in connection with audits or other investigations, for research purposes, for purposes of determining where particular records are required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, and to a Member of Congress in response to an inquiry from the congressional office made at your written request.

Full Conditions for Federal Aid Eligibility

In order to be eligible for federal student aid the student must a U.S. citizen or national or one of the following eligible non-citizens:

  • A U.S. permanent resident
  • A citizen of one of the Freely Associated States (i.e. the Federated States of Micronesia and the republics of Palau and the Marshall Islands)
  • A refugee
  • Granted Asylum
  • A parolee
  • A Cuban-Haitian Entrant, status pending
  • A conditional entrant (valid only if issued before April 1, 1980).

The student is ineligible for federal student aid if they:

  • Warrant a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence I-171 or I-464
  • Have an F1 or F2 visa
  • Have a J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa

Acceptable documentation to verify the student’s citizenship is as follows:

  • A copy of the student’s birth certificate showing that the student was born in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swain’s Island, or the Northern Mariana Islands
  • U.S. passport current or expired
  • A certificate of citizenship from INS (N-560 or N-561) which has the certificate number and date of issue.
  • A certificate of Naturalization from INS (N-550 or N-570) which must indicate date and certification number.
  • A copy of the following State Department documents:
    • FS-240 Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the U.S.
    • FS-545 Certificate of Birth-Foreign Service
    • DS-1350 Certificate of Birth

In order to be eligible for federal and state aid, the student must provide a valid Social Security Number (SSN).

The federal processor of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) verifies that the submitted student’s SSN is correct and that it corresponds to the given student’s name and birth date. If the SSN does not match with the Social Security Administration, (i.e., the number is not found in their database) the FAFSA will be rejected:

  • When the SSN has been reported incorrectly on the FAFSA, the student must submit a copy of his or her Social Security card to his or her financial aid office.
  • If the student’s name and SSN match but the date of birth differs, the student must make a correction on the Student Aid Report (SAR).
  • If the SSN exists in the database but there is a discrepancy regarding the student’s name, the student must make a correction on the SAR.

Students who are in default on a federal educational loan are ineligible for Federal student aid funds but can take the following actions to have their eligibility reinstated:

Satisfactory repayment arrangements

A borrower may repay the defaulted loan in full or make satisfactory repayment arrangements, i.e. six consecutive, voluntary, on time, full monthly payments that are reasonable and affordable given the borrower’s financial situation).

Loan rehabilitation

After the student makes more payments, the loan may be rehabilitated, that is, it will not be in default anymore, and the student will have all the normal loan benefits, such as deferments. A loan will not be rehabilitated until the borrower makes 12 consecutive, full, voluntary payments on time.

If you are unsure which loan is in default, your financial aid officer can assist you in identifying the loan.

Federal regulations (CFR 668.34) require Columbia University to establish, publish, and apply standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) for Federal Title IV financial aid eligibility. The purpose of measuring and enforcing these standards is to ensure financial aid recipients’ progress towards degree completion using both qualitative and quantitative methods in accordance with federal regulations. To be eligible for financial aid (Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG, Federal Work-Study, Federal Perkins Loan, Federal Direct/PLUS loan), students must meet or exceed these standards. For more information, please see the central SAP policy.


Drug convictions no longer affect federal student aid eligibility. When you complete the FAFSA form, you will be asked whether you had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. If the answer is yes, you will be provided a worksheet. Please do answer the questions on the worksheet; however, your answers won’t affect your federal student aid eligibility.