Financing Your Degree

The School of the Arts awards over $10 million in student aid each year in the form of tuition scholarships, paid service positions, teaching appointments and institutional loans.

Working with Columbia’s Office of Student Financial Planning, we are committed to assisting both prospective and current students with the knowledge and understanding necessary to finance our Master of Fine Arts programs. The majority of our students use a combination of personal savings, external resources, scholarships and loans to cover the cost of attendance.  

Applicants are encouraged to actively explore all options, even before acceptance into the school, and to develop a plan to support the costs of graduate study for the duration of their respective programs. All appropriate applications should be completed by applicants wishing to have financial need considered in scholarship and fellowship decisions prior to receiving an admissions decision, but no later than February 16, 2017.

University-wide information regarding financial aid, billing & payments and other important policies and procedures can be found on Columbia University's Student Financial Services website.

Cost of Attendance

Tuition, fees and estimated living expenses for the 2016-2017 academic year are detailed here. Please note that this information is for the current academic year.  Tuition and fees have historically risen each year.

Types of Financing

Please note that neither institutional nor federal aid is available for summer courses.

Scholarships and Fellowships

The School of the Arts offers a number of fellowships and scholarships to incoming MFA students who demonstrate a combination of merit (based upon the admissions committee review of the application materials), documented financial need and/or a commitment to serve the School through one of our service opportunities. Service  opportunities are competitive and vary by Program. Students typically apply at the end of their first year for awarding in their second year. Paid service opportunities may include teaching positions or other paid positions that serve the School.
Priority for School of the Arts scholarship support is given to full-time MFA students in their first- and second-years of their Programs who are completing coursework. Scholarship support is typically not available to Research Arts students. Research Arts students are students who are beyond the second year of their Program and who have completed required coursework.
Masters of Film Studies students are ineligible for need-based institutional aid from the School of the Arts. In rare cases, Masters of Film Studies students may be compensated for teaching assistant and research assistant positions.

Please see the Additional Financial Aid Policies and Procedures section for more information regarding institutional financial aid.

How to Apply

MFA Applicants who wish to have their financial need considered in potential offers of School of the Arts scholarship or fellowship aid (aka “institutional aid”) should complete the following steps:

1.    Choose the pull-down menu option in your School of the Arts MFA Application for Admission stating that you wish to be considered for institutional aid.

2.    (U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents only) Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid at by February 16, 2017.  Columbia’s School Code is 002707.

3.    (Required for all MFA applicants who wish to be considered for institutional aid in the form of scholarships and fellowships): Complete the online CSS PROFILE Application here: The School of the Arts code is 2166.The deadline for this application is February 16, 2017.
Please note that financial need has no bearing on the school’s admissions decisions.

Outside Scholarships and Fellowships

The School of the Arts is pleased to offer admitted and current students access to our Artists’ Resource Center database of outside scholarships and grants at This regularly updated site contains over 1,100 outside scholarship and grant opportunities. In addition, student staff members are available to meet with admitted and current students to help them in the application process.

Please note that, in cases where admitted and/or current students receive an offer of institutional aid from the School of the Arts and also receive outside scholarship funding that results in a cumulative award exceeding the cost of tuition, the School of the Arts reserves the right to reduce its institutional funding until the cumulative total of the awards equals the cost of tuition.

Federal and Alternative Aid

For information relating to federal aid and private aid, including Direct Subsidized, Unsubsidized, Graduate PLUS, federal work-study, Perkins loans and private loans, please visit the Columbia University Graduate Financial Aid website.

How to Apply
U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents who wish to apply for federal aid must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or “FAFSA”) at by February 15, 2017. Columbia’s School Code is 002707.

International Student Funding

As a requirement of the I-20 application for a student visa, international students must demonstrate they have sufficient funds to meet the costs of tuition, fees and living expenses.   

Because US citizens or permanent residents may be eligible for federal student aid, international students, who are ineligible, have a more limited opportunity for financial assistance at the School. International students are, however, eligible for School-based scholarships and fellowships, and are encouraged to complete the steps outlined above in the “Fellowships and Scholarships” section.

International students may also be eligible for loans through private lending sources, which usually require a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For more information, please visit the Columbia University Graduate Financial Aid website.

Before you apply, and especially if you are accepted, here are some important things to consider:
  • All School of the Arts students, both international and domestic, are ultimately responsible for funding their education.  While the School of the Arts offers some fellowship support based upon a combination of merit and need, such funding is not guaranteed and, if granted, would likely apply only to the first and/or second year(s);
  • Each School of the Arts MFA Program requires at least two years of full-time study.  Some allow up to five years for completion of the thesis project, though during the thesis period (aka “Research Arts”) tuition is greatly reduced.  Current tuition and fees can be found here;
  • A monthly tuition payment plan is available.  Information about the TuitionPay Payment Plan, can be found here;
Timely tuition payment is critical each semester.  Current students who are beyond the first semester and who have student account balances over $999 from a previous semester are not allowed to register for subsequent semesters.  This may place international students in jeopardy of violating their student visas.
International admitted students should also explore our Artists' Resource Center. Please see the Outside Scholarships and Grants section for more information.


Columbia University School of the Arts is pleased to participate in the Department of Veteran Affairs' Yellow Ribbon Program.
The School of the Arts is offering up to $5,000 in fellowship support for up to four eligible post-9/11 veterans for every academic year on a first-come, first-served basis. For information regarding the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program eligibility and benefits, please see the Columbia University Veterans' Affairs page and/or the Columbia University Yellow Ribbon Program page on the Student Financial Services website.
If you are an admitted or current student and would like to apply for Yellow Ribbon Program benefits, you must complete an online application no later than July 1st. Please click here for the application.

Additional Policies and Procedures regarding Institutional Aid

To receive institutional aid from the School of the Arts, students:
  • must be registered as full time.  For course-taking students (typically first- and second-year students), this means registration of at least 12 credits per term. For Research Arts students (those who have completed 60 credits), this means registration in the appropriate Research Arts registration category.  Students teaching in the Undergraduate Writing Program (UWP) who are funded through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences must be registered at least half time or as Research Arts students.
  • must be meeting the requirements for Satisfactory Academic Progress
  • must not be on disciplinary or academic probation
First-year students who meet these requirements will receive an equivalent level of student support in their second year through a combination of scholarship and one or more paid service positions. These positions provide relevant professional work experience for your resume and/or CV. They include instructional and non-instructional positions. These per-hour positions are paid through University Payroll and are subject to appropriate city, state and/or federal withholding.
Typically, institutional support presumes enrollment during the fall and spring semesters. Enrollment in only one semester may result in an appropriate reduction of the award.
Students who accept these awards thereby agree to these terms.
Additional terms and conditions may apply. Students should consult their specific financial aid award letters and/or Student Services Online for additional terms and conditions.
These policies and procedures are subject to change.

Financial Aid and Satisfactory Academic Progress

Students receiving federal or institutional aid must meet the School's policy on Satisfactory Academic Progress.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Film MFA:
December 1, 2016

Film Studies MA:
February 1, 2017

Theatre MFA (Directing only):
December 1, 2016

Theatre MFA (all other concentrations):
January 5, 2017

Writing MFA:
January 5, 2017

Visual Arts MFA:
January 17, 2017

Arts Interdepartmental MFA (Sound Arts):
January 17, 2017
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Office of Admissions
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School of the Arts
Columbia University
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Phone: (212) 854-2134
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.