International students (not U.S. citizens and not eligible noncitizens) may face special challenges in financing their legal education. They are not eligible for federally guaranteed assistance programs, most private educational loans cannot be obtained without a U.S. cosigner, and there are no fully funded fellowships for law students in Columbia’s J.D. degree program. Thus, early financial planning is essential for international students. In addition, we request that by July 1 international grant applicants or grant recipients who plan to enroll in August provide the Financial Aid Office with proof of their approved loan(s) in the amount(s) they will need.
International students are not eligible for federal financial aid (Direct Stafford Loans and Direct Graduate PLUS Loans, or Work-Study). Therefore, international students applying for private educational loans only must submit the Financial Aid Questionnaire and their loan application(s), but they can disregard the instructions to file a FAFSA. Entering first-year international students who are applying for loans and Columbia Law School grants must complete the CSS Profile application and submit additional required documents, including tax forms (with English translation, if necessary), as indicated in the section on How to Apply for Financial Aid. These forms must provide parental income and asset information translated into U.S. dollar amounts at official rates of exchange as of the day of filing the form. In some cases, additional documentation will be requested.
All need-based grant packages require a significant loan component, comprised of federal loans for U.S. students and eligible noncitizens, and private (credit-based) educational loans for international students. Because students who are not able to secure the loans necessary to finance their education do not receive any institutional funds to pay for their Law School expenses, they must find other means to pay for their education.
Some lenders offer private educational loans to international students who can provide a credit-worthy cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or, for some programs, a U.S. permanent resident. At a minimum, the cosigner should have at least a two-year employment history, good credit, and the ability to repay the loan in case of default on the part of the student. For more detailed information regarding private educational loan programs, please visit the University’s Student Financial Services website. Please be aware that students have the right and ability to select the education loan provider of their choice, are not required to use any suggested lenders, and will suffer no penalty for choosing a lender that is not a suggested lender.
For private educational loan programs, it is the student's responsibility to secure an eligible cosigner, and it is very important that the student does so as soon as possible, preferably by May or early June. It is also vital that you submit applications for private loans well in advance of planned registration at the Law School, so that you can find out whether your cosigner meets the credit criteria of the lender you choose. Once you and your cosigner have applied for a loan, the lender will inform you if the loan is approved or denied. Thus, to ensure that you will have the necessary financing for law school, it is essential that you begin the process of securing a cosigner and applying for the loans you will need as soon as possible. Again, we recommend applying in May or early June.
For the purposes of visa documentation, you should note that loans are accepted as documentation of financial resources only if they have been approved for credit by the lender of choice and certified by the Financial Aid Office. Therefore, in order to avoid delays with your visa, apply early so that you have your loans finalized by the end of June.
Based solely upon historical borrowing data over the past two academic years, some international students may have been able to secure alternative private loans without a U.S. co-signer from the financial institutions listed on the Student Financial Services (SFS) website.
Check with your private loan lender to find out if a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) is required of the student or only of the cosigner at the time of application. For some loan programs, applicants may need to begin the SSN application process before the start of the academic year. International students should note that they cannot obtain a U.S. Social Security Number unless they are currently living in the United States. The International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) can inform students of the necessary procedures in applying for Social Security Numbers.
International students holding a nonresident visa will be charged an International Services Charge each semester (currently $100, but subject to change) to cover the services provided by Columbia’s International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO), located in International House, 524 Riverside Drive. One of the benefits is affiliate status with International House, including access to many activities scheduled there. The ISSO also provides assistance with student visa questions. In addition, a one-time administrative processing fee (currently $100) will be assessed for newly admitted international students for Columbia University visa supervision. Please feel free to contact ISSO at 212-854-3587 or visit the website.