Tuition, Fees and Financial Aid

The School of the Arts awards over $13 million in student aid each year in the form of tuition scholarships, paid service positions, teaching appointments and institutional awards.

We believe that the education and resources provided by the School of the Arts support an investment that will yield personal, intellectual and professional gains for the rest of your life. We also realize that meeting the cost of this investment requires careful planning.

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’s 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. If you wish to have financial need considered in scholarship and fellowship decisions, all appropriate applications should be completed prior to your receiving an admissions decision, but no later than February 1, 2023.

Please note that the School of the Arts admissions process is need-blind, which means that financial need is not factored into admissions decisions.

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

All MFA programs require 2 years of full-time coursework at the full tuition rate. Students in the Film, Theatre, or Writing MFA programs who register for Research Arts status in their third year, created for the purpose of focusing on completion of the required MFA thesis, will be billed a much lower tuition rate (typically 8-9% of the full-time tuition rate) and will maintain full-time status.

IMPORTANT NEWS: On August 24, 2022, President Biden announced that the US Department of Education will forgive $10,000 in student loan debt to existing borrowers who received loans by 6/30/22 with incomes below $125K (or $250K for married couple), and $20,000 to those who also received Pell Grant assistance as an undergraduate.  At the same time, the pause in student loan repayment and interest that began in March 2020 will be extended one last time to December 31, 2022.  There are also proposed regulations to simplify repayment obligations and minimize the accumulation of interest.  Additional details will follow, but you can learn more at

Types of Financing

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 positions that serve the School.

Priority for School of the Arts scholarship support is given to full-time MFA students in the first and second years of their programs who are completing coursework since tuition is billed at the full rate only for the first two years of study. Scholarship support is typically not available to Research Arts students (students who are continuing in the Program beyond the second year and who have completed required coursework). Students working on their thesis projects in their third year and beyond are billed at the significantly reduced Research Arts tuition rate. Please note that additional thesis fees may apply.

Please see the Additional Financial Aid Policies and Procedures section for more information regarding institutional financial aid. Please note that neither institutional nor federal aid is available for summer courses.


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

  • 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.
  • U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents only: Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form at by February 1st. Columbia’s School Code is 002707.
  • All MFA applicants: Complete the online School of the Arts Financial Aid Application by February 1, 2022 for admission in the fall of 2022.
  • Please note that financial need has no bearing on the School’s admissions decisions.

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 2,300 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: if a student has received an offer of institutional aid from the School of the Arts while also receiving outside scholarship funding, the School of the Arts reserves the right to reduce its institutional funding if the cumulative total of the awards equals or exceeds the cost of tuition.

For information about federal aid and private aid, including Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS loans, federal work-study, Perkins loans and private loans, please visit the Columbia University Financial Aid website here:


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 2, 2021 for admission in the fall of 2021. Columbia’s School Code is 002707.

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.   

International students, who are ineligible for federal student aid, have a more limited opportunity for financial assistance in the form of loans. International students are, however, eligible for School-based scholarships and fellowships, and are encouraged to complete the steps outlined above in the Scholarships and Fellowships section.

International students may also be eligible for loans through private lending sources, which usually require a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. For more information, please visit the Columbia University 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 a third year  for completion of the thesis project, although during the thesis period (also referred to as “Research Arts”), tuition is greatly reduced.
  • A monthly tuition payment plan is available. Information about the TuitionPay Payment Plan, can be found here.

Timely tuition payment is critical each semester. After their first semester, current students 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.

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 five eligible post-9/11 veterans for every academic year on a first-come, first-served basis. For information about 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 1. Please click here for the application.

Please click here for information on the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018.

To receive institutional aid from the School of the Arts, students:

  • must be registered as full-time. For students still taking courses (typically first- and second-year students), this means registration for at least 12 credits per term. For Research Arts students (those who have completed 60 credits), this means registration in the appropriate Research Arts category. Students teaching in the Undergraduate Writing Program (UWP) who are funded through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences must be registered full-time or as Research Arts students.
  • 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. Other than a small increase equivalent to the percentage increase in tuition, it is unlikely that students will receive additional scholarship funding in their second year. However, students may be eligible for increased support in the second year through department service positions and/or teaching assignments. These positions provide relevant professional work experience for your résumé and/or CV and include instructional and non-instructional positions. These hourly 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 support.

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 the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid for additional terms and conditions.

The above policies and procedures are subject to change.

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

If you should have any questions, please direct them to: [email protected]