Tara Hanna Email to Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Resident Advisers

Editor's note:

Please disregard the date below. The following is the text of an email sent to Columbia College and Columbia Engineering Resident Advisers with the subject line "Following up – Tuesday's announcement" on July 29, 2022.

March 28, 2023

Dear CC/SEAS 2022-2023 Resident Advisers:

Since the announcement about the payment options for the upcoming school year earlier this week, nearly fifty of you have scheduled individual appointments with Residential Life and/or Financial Aid. We appreciate that we have been able to meet with close to one-third of you and our understanding is that the meetings that have been conducted so far have been very informative and helpful. We hope to meet with the remainder of you over the coming days.

From these meetings, we have heard a number of frequently asked questions and write today to share some of these questions and our responses to assist you and your family in selecting the payment option that works best for each of you.

Q: Why is the decision timeline so short?

A:  The decision timeline is based on the time needed to execute on the selection a student would make. For those that elect to receive a payment, you and the University need to take steps to enable the first installment of the payment in early September. Additionally, the University’s billing production schedule, which applies to the entire University student body, runs on a schedule and we want to ensure accurate and appropriate billing that reflects your choice. If you make a selection, and then want to change your selection prior to the August 2 deadline, you can email [email protected]. If, as you consult with your family, you realize you need additional time to weigh the options and make a fully informed decision, please reach out to [email protected] and we can work with you individually and grant individual extensions as necessary given personal circumstances. However, please keep in mind that any extension may mean that the correct information will not be reflected on your August 12 bill. We understand that this decision can take time and will ensure that no RA has any late fees related to the August bill.

Q: Am I taxed on the $1,000 payment? What about the $13,000 honorarium?

A: Both are considered reportable income for which the University will provide recipients with a form 1099 or 1042-S for international students. The tax implications are dependent on individual circumstances and/or the applicable tax treaties in place. As in all matters, unfortunately, the University cannot legally provide tax advice given that individual circumstances vary greatly. Please note that half of the honorarium will be considered 2022 income and the other half will be considered 2023 income. We’d encourage a review of the tax implications as they should not be significant with respect to this specific payment.

Q: I’d like to choose the new policy but neither I nor my family had anticipated paying for housing. I will have problems securing resources to pay my student bill. Does Columbia have any resources to assist?

A: You and your family may wish to sign up for the University’s monthly payment plan that enables you to pay tuition and fees over several months, rather than in one payment. While there is a modest, non-refundable application fee, this fee will be waived for all RAs and their families on a one-time basis for 2022-23. This eliminates the timing issue as the due dates of the housing will be spread over the entire term and you will receive the honorarium payment in September and October.

Q: How do I (or my family) get the application fee for the monthly payment plan waived?

A: The payment plan is managed by an external party and charges $25 a term or $45 for the academic year. In order to enroll, the fee must be paid up front. However, if you enroll, the University will provide you a credit on your student account after the mid-point of the term.

Q: Why does this have a different impact for international students?

A: Taxation is dictated by the U.S. government and, in some cases, between the U.S. government and a student’s home country. Some international students will be subject to 30% withholding, which was also the case under the prior policy. The University is required by law to report certain payments made to a nonresident alien or a foreign entity to the IRS on Form 1042-S, and for some students, to withhold federal income tax. Typically, much of this withholding is refunded when you file your U.S. tax return as the income itself on a standalone basis is not subject to a 30% tax. We will facilitate claiming benefits under a tax treaty, if applicable, which can reduce your withholding and tax in certain circumstances.

Q: I’m a student who receives financial aid and I’m confused about the options. Which one is better for me?

A: Under the prior policy your financial aid award was adjusted downward because the cost of housing was waived and not included in the cost of attendance. Under the new policy your financial aid award will no longer be adjusted downward due to the RA position. The new policy takes away the variation in benefits under the prior policy for those students who receive financial aid. Please make an appointment with Financial Aid and Educational Financing if you need more information. You can find their contact information at: https://cc-seas.financialaid.columbia.edu/contact/hours.

Q: I’m a student on financial aid and there is no mention of work expectation with the new policy. In the previous policy, RAs are not expected to pay the work expectation and the exemption from this cost is considered a huge benefit for low-income RAs. What happens with work expectation under the new policy?

A: Under the prior policy, the work expectation for RAs was replaced with the RA Grant to help offset the reduction in other grants due to not being charged housing/lower cost of attendance. This resulted in variations in the level of benefits that RAs on financial aid received. With the new policy, the RA Grant will no longer replace a student’s typical work expectation. Instead, each CC/SEAS RA will receive a larger general Columbia Grant in addition to the honorarium payment. We recommend that you use Financial Aid’s Understanding the New RA Policy worksheet to see how the new policy provides larger benefits for students on financial aid.

Please note that our team in Residential Life and staff in Financial Aid will be available to meet outside of business hours to answer your individual questions. We strongly encourage you to schedule time to get your individual questions answered.

Our hope is that we can continue to work together directly and in partnership, as we have in the past, to make important changes that support and benefit both RAs and the residential community.

I look forward to welcoming you back to campus.


Dean Hanna

Tara Hanna
Executive Director of Residential Life
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Student Life