Costs and Budgeting

Standard Cost of Attendance

Financial aid starts with the standard cost of attendance (COA) for a student. The items listed below form the basis for what the Financial Aid Office can permit in overall financial aid, including student loans. Although charges for tuition and fees are not finalized by the University Trustees until June, the following information for the current academic year (2020-2021) can provide you with a guideline for tuition, fees, and related expenses. Please keep in mind that an increase to these charges is anticipated for the 2021-2022 academic year.

2020-2021 Expenses Costs
Tuition $72,352
Student Activity Fee $256
University Services & Support Fee $1,062
Health & Related Services Fee $1,220
Student Health Insurance
(may be waived with proof of comparable coverage for U.S. students)
Document Fee
(one-time charge for new Columbia University students)
Total University Charges $78,671
Books & Supplies
[Only books/texts required as part of the academic course(s) will be allowed in the COA]
Total Education Costs $80,171

Living costs for the 2020–2021 academic year (September 2020 - April 2021) are budgeted as follows:

2020-2021 Expenses Costs for Academic Year
(Rent/Utilities = $1,576/month)
Food $6,841
Personal $4,800
Total Living Expenses $24,249
Academic Year Budget $104,420*

*This is the Standard Cost of Attendance (COA), which is used to determine eligibility for LRAP.

NOTE: For students borrowing federal student loans for the 2020-2021 academic year, the average educational loan fees for borrowers at Columbia Law School will automatically be added to the cost of attendance at the time of loan certification. Based upon an assessment of Law School borrowing during the 2019-2020 academic year, the average educational loan fees amount to $2,439 ($217 for Stafford loans and $2,222 for Graduate PLUS loans).


Living expenses provide for a moderate standard of living for the New York area during the academic year (September 2020 - April 2021). Additionally, most grant and loan funds are divided equally and disbursed at the beginning of each semester and must cover educational expenses for several months. As such, it is very important to plan carefully so that your funds will be sufficient for the entire academic year. Students needing to finance their entire cost of education must keep in mind that they will be living on a fixed income, and must establish their spending priorities accordingly. If you choose to spend more in one area, you will need to reduce your expenses in other areas.

Only books and texts required as part of the academic course(s) will be allowed in the COA. Discretionary purchases of books, texts and supplies are not accommodated in the COA. Therefore, suggested/recommended books or texts that are discretionary (not required or mandatory for an academic course) will not be included in the COA.

Students may encounter some expenses that are not covered by the standard COA—for example, the purchase of a personal computer, or unreimbursed costs for medical services which occur within the Law School’s academic year. To cover such expenses, students can request a review of their individual budget for possible adjustments to their COA to allow for additional borrowing through credit-based educational loan programs. To request a budget adjustment, students must complete the 2020-2021 Budget Adjustment Request Application (available from the Financial Aid Office) and submit it to our office, along with receipts and supporting documentation, where applicable (e.g., a letter from an impartial third party provider). Requests for budget adjustments are considered on a case-by-case basis. Statements and explanations provided by the student, family, other relatives/friends, etc. do not constitute supporting documentation for budget adjustments. Depending on the reason for the requested increase, and in order for the Financial Aid Office to determine if an increase is allowable, students may be asked to submit additional supporting documents beyond those originally submitted.

The following expenses will not be considered for budget increases: Payments for prior debts (credit card bills or other); summer expenses or expenses incurred during periods of non-enrollment; suggested or recommended books/texts for courses; other discretionary expenditures (e.g., car, entertainment, other lifestyle expenses). Therefore, students who have high consumer debt or other financial obligations that cannot be deferred while they are in law school must carefully examine their ability to accommodate their needs to the student budget. We strongly recommend that students take all measures to reduce their consumer debt prior to beginning their studies.

Please note that the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) will not cover any loans borrowed beyond the standard COA. Thus, while the Law School’s Financial Aid Office may approve budget adjustments beyond the standard COA, these amounts will not be eligible for LRAP benefits. For more information about LRAP, review the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) section of this site for a detailed description.

The expected grant and loan disbursement dates are late August to early September for the fall 2020 semester, early January for the spring 2021 semester, and late April for the summer 2021 semester.

Generally, one-half of the total award amount (minus any applicable origination fees for loans) will be credited directly to your student account each semester. Please plan accordingly for your living expenses (rent/utilities/food/etc.).

Finally, please be aware that financial aid documents that are missing from your financial aid file will prevent the disbursement of your aid. We will notify you regarding any necessary documents that are still outstanding. Please make certain to arrange for their prompt submission in order to avoid delays in the disbursement of your aid.

  • International Services Fee:  $110 per semester; $220 per academic year.
    This fee supports the University's services to international students (those holding a nonresident visa).
  • Administrative Processing Fee:  $103 fee.
    A one-time fee for newly-admitted international students for Columbia University visa supervision.
  • Dependent Care Allowance: $5,000 allowance for first child; $4,000 each additional child. Please contact our office for details regarding the regulations and documentation required for a dependent care allowance.