Columbia University will issue a refund to students to resolve eligible credit balances. A credit balance occurs when a student account has total credits in excess of total charges, which may arise from overpayments from federal or non-federal sources, or from a change in enrollment in a given term. Credits include payments, loan disbursements, or grants; charges include tuition, room and board, and required fees.

To view your charges and credits on your account, log into SSOL and select Account Detail and e-Billing. From there you will have an opportunity to request automatic refunding if a refund is applicable. 


Why Refunds Happen

Federal financial aid loans and grants are also called Title IV funds. These currently include the following:

  • Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
  • Direct Graduate PLUS Loan
  • Direct PLUS Loan
  • Pell Grant
  • SEO Grant

Title IV funds may only be applied toward allowable charges: tuition, mandatory fees, room and board if they are contracted through the university, and prior-year charges up to but not exceeding $200. When there is an excess of Title IV funds greater than the total of the allowable charges, the student is entitled to a refund of that excess amount within 14 days of that excess amount posting.

Authorization to Prevent Automatic Title IV Refunds

However, there are situations when students may want Title IV overpayment to remain on their student account. Student bills may include non-allowable charges, such as health insurance costs and bookstore fees. The student can provide written authorization, such as an email to [email protected], stating that any excess Title IV funding should remain on the student account. 

  • Such requests will be granted for any current or future Title IV, beginning at the time of the request, and will be good for the remainder of the academic year in which the request is made.
  • Authorization to retain Title IV funding on the student account is voluntary. Students have the right to rescind the authorization at any time and request a refund from the credit balance.
Recalculated Financial Aid

Depending on the specifics of the situation, the level of aid awarded to a student may be recalculated by the school's financial aid office when students have a credit balance from overpayment and are recipients of Title IV federal aid.

Non-Federal Sources

If a student or parent overpays the student's account, related credit balances will be refunded to the student, regardless of the source of the payment.

If a credit balance on a student's account is from external, non-federal aid, such as private scholarships, grants, or private loans, the credit balance in the account may be reduced, may be returned to the source, or may be refunded to the student, depending on the specifics of the situation and the conditions of the award.

For students who do not enroll during the term or semester for which a credit balance exists, the credit balance will be refunded to the student. The one exception is if the payment was made via wire transfer, in which case the payment will be returned to the source.

Payments resulting in a credit balance, made by any of the payment methods below, are subject to a waiting period before SFS issues the refund.

  • Personal Check: 10 days
  • ACH Payment: 7 days
  • Loan Checks: 1 day

Changes in enrollment include the following situations:

  • Enrollment status changes during a term or semester.
  • Enrollment status is expected to change prior to a term, including non-enrollment, leaves of absence, and withdrawals. 
  • Academic workload increases or decreases (Add/Drop), affecting federal or other aid eligibility.

Students who expect a change in enrollment must consult their school’s financial aid office before requesting a refund. The proration of tuition and other charges will vary based on the point in time a student withdraws during the term and the nature of the withdrawal. Please see the Refund Rate for Withdrawals page on the Registrar website for further details.


When a student begins a withdrawal from University enrollment, the amount of federal student aid (also known as Title IV funds, including Direct Loans, Plus Loans, and Pell Grants) may need to be recalculated by the school’s financial aid office. Any aid earned or not earned by the student through Federal Work-Study will also need to be recalculated.

The amount of adjusted federal aid as well as the prorated tuition, if applicable, are based on the date of withdrawal. Depending on the details of the situation, some funds may need to be returned to the federal source or refunded to the student. 

If you expect to withdraw from school temporarily or permanently, first contact your school's financial aid office to learn about any potential responsibilities you may have.

Tuition Insurance

Students and families can learn more information from GradGuard about tuition insurance for when a student can’t complete an academic term due to an unforeseen, covered circumstance.

How Refunds Are Paid

Refunds are issued by direct deposit to the student's personal bank account, which the student must provide in SSOL.  

When a personal bank account is not provided by the student in SSOL, a paper check will be sent to the student's local address as listed in SSOL. Please ensure you have provided a local address for where you currently live.

Please note that processing paper checks is slower, less efficient, and not as environmentally friendly as direct deposit. As such, we encourage all students to maintain direct deposit account information in SSOL. 

Refund Processing Schedule — Spring 2024

Eligibility for Refunds

To process a refund, all applicable term charges and credits must be posted to the account in accordance with enrollment expectations. Anticipated funds, such as a student loan that has not yet been disbursed, will not count as an official credit to the account until the funds have actually been received by the university.

Accounts of students on a payment plan are not eligible for a refund until the payment plan has been completed and paid in full and payments exceed the applicable charges.

In other words, students on payment plans should expect to receive refunds toward the end of a semester only if the payment plan overpays. 

​​​​​​Sponsored students whose full cost of attendance is paid by a third party are not eligible for refunds. Any overpayment by a sponsor will be returned to the sponsor source.

However, if a sponsorship agreement requires the student to contribute a portion of the cost of attendance, any overpayment as a result of the student's contribution will result in a refund to the student.

Admission deposits paid to reserve a place in an upcoming year are non-refundable.

However, the deposit amount may be deducted from the amount due on the first billing statement of the term if the deposit credit is not already reflected on that statement.

If admission is deferred, contact the appropriate school’s admissions office to determine if the deposit can be credited to a later term.