Local 2110 - Tuition Exemption

Tuition Exemption - Graduates gather

This Tuition Exemption Benefit Program pays tuition costs, depending on your eligibility, for undergraduate or graduate courses for you at Columbia University, Barnard College and Teachers College. This is not a reimbursement or remission program; the tuition is simply exempt.

Coverage & Eligibility

As a Local 2110 Support Staff member, tuition for undergraduate and graduate courses is covered at 100% up to a certain number of credits per term. Note that only tuition costs are covered. This benefit does not cover course fees and/or the cost for auditing a course. There is a two-semester waiting period (seven months) to be eligible for this benefit.

Benefits for Support Staff

In general, the benefit for Support Staff applies during the academic year (September-May) to undergraduate and graduate classes at Columbia University, Barnard College and Teachers College. Members of collective bargaining agreements should review their agreement carefully for rules regarding summer term courses. Summer term courses are Columbia only.

Courses given during work hours are not normally open to Support Staff; with the department head’s approval, however, staff may register for one such course each term if they arrange an alternate work schedule.

  • Full-time Support Staff:  Seven (7) points per term
  • Part-time Support Staff: Part-time Support Staff may receive tuition exemption for one (1) course per term, up to three (3) points during the first year and up to four (4) points per term every year after that.

The required number of hours in a regularly scheduled part-time work week may vary. For this and other details, part-time Support Staff must refer to their collective bargaining agreement.

Benefit for Spouse or Same-Sex Domestic Partner and Dependents

Eligible spouses, same-sex domestic partners and dependents may receive the unused portion of a Support Staff member’s benefit.

Eligible family can only use the benefit for undergraduate and graduate classes at Columbia, not at Barnard or Teacher’s College.

In addition, dependent children must be enrolled at Columbia as candidates for a Bachelor’s, professional or higher degree—unless they have obtained admission to Columbia as a non-degree special student while enrolled in a similar degree program at another accredited college or university.

The Tuition Exemption Benefit does not cover the following course types for Support Staff or their family members:

  • All short-term, intensive, and fee-based courses in which the instructor is paid on the basis of the number of students registered in the course
  • Courses with no point value
  • Applied music courses (i.e., musical instrument instruction)
  • Continuing education courses (i.e., those beginning with the letter "Q" or "N," unless such a course is taken to fulfill a degree requirement)
  • Any audited courses

A person on the payroll as a member of the full-time or part-time Support Staff is eligible for the Tuition Exemption Benefit once the waiting period is met.

Note: The required number of hours in a regularly scheduled part-time work week may vary; union members need to consult the collective bargaining agreement for exact eligibility requirements.

The Support Staff member must also be actively at work and not on any type of leave of absence. The staff member must be covered under the following collective bargaining agreement:

  • Local 2110 Technical, Office & Professional Workers

Those in a position covered by a collective bargaining agreement should also consult that agreement for details about the program to ensure that they understand their specific eligibility requirements.

Waiting Periods

Support Staff and Spouse: Timing and Waiting Periods

The Support Staff member and their spouse can receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit once the waiting period is met:

  • Waiting Period, Local 2110: Full-time and part-time Support Staff hired after 12/31/2012 must meet a two-semester waiting period before being eligible to receive Tuition Exemption benefits for the following semester. The two (2)-semester waiting period is administered as seven (7) months.

The waiting period follows the rules below:

Eligibility for Family Members

In addition to being eligible for the Tuition Exemption benefit, Support Staff family members must also be accepted into the school they wish to attend.

Dependent Waiting Periods

The following waiting periods apply before dependent children are eligible for the Tuition Exemption Benefit:

  • Local 2110: Dependents are eligible after the Support Staff member has worked two (2) years.

Must be matriculated in a Bachelors, professional or higher degree program; no non-degree programs are eligible.

In cases where the son or daughter are registered as a degree candidate outside the University system but is able to obtain admission as a non-matriculated special student at Columbia, Tuition Exemption will be granted. A Letter of Student in Good Standing is required.


If a Support Staff member is laid off during a term and they are represented by Local 2110, the Tuition Exemption Benefit granted for that term will not be revoked. However, the staff member will not receive Tuition Exemption Benefit for any subsequent term. Other union members should consult their collective bargaining agreements.


If your employment terminates for any reason during a term in which you are granted the Tuition Exemption Benefit, you must refund the University for the remainder of the term. The accompanying “Prorated Benefit Available Per Term Based on Termination” table shows how many exemption points are available if you change employment status during a given week of a term.

Leaves of Absence

Tuition benefits are not available for Support Staff who are on a leave of absence. If you begin a leave during a term in which the Tuition Exemption Benefit has already been granted, you need to refer to the “Prorated Benefit Available Per Term Based on Termination or Job Status Change” table below to see how many exemption points are available.

Switch from Full-time to Part-time

Staff members whose status changes from full-time to part-time during a term need to consult the "Full Time" column in the "Prorated Benefit Available Per Term Based Job Status Change" table below to determine how many exemption points you are eligible to receive.

Tax Treatment Graduate-Level Studies

According to IRS guidelines, tuition exemption benefits for graduate-level studies (course numbers 4000 & above) are exempt from taxation up to the federal limit of $5,250 in a calendar year. The value of tuition exemption benefits above the federal limit of $5,250 is treated as taxable imputed income, and taxes will be withheld from your paycheck. The University will spread the tax liability of Tuition Exemption benefits for fall classes over the October through December pay periods.

The one exception to this IRS guideline is for graduate-level studies certified as “job-related,” per IRS-defined criteria.

Visit the Job-Related Graduate Education Certification page for the Policy and IRS Criteria on whether you qualify for the Job-Related tax exemption and for employee and supervisor instructions on how to certify.

New Job-Related forms must be submitted by your Supervisor to [email protected], confirming it has been signed and certified as job-related per the IRS criteria reflected in the policy.

Non-Degree Programs – New forms must be certified and submitted each term.

Degree Programs – Forms must only be certified once (unless you change your degree program, or job); however, a copy of the supervisor-certified form must be submitted each term.

Note: Forms must be submitted by the End Date of the Change of Program End Period.

Important: If you do not submit a Job-Related Graduate Education Certification (JRGEC) Form demonstrating these courses are related to your work at the University, your paycheck will be taxed for the tuition value of courses exceeding the annual federal limit.

Submit JRGEC forms to email: [email protected].

If you have any questions about your student account, please contact SFS at [email protected].

How to Apply

For complete details, see the Tuition Exemption Checklist.

How to Submit Forms

  • Submit your completed Tuition Exemption Benefits forms to Student Financial Services (SFS) or the Bursar's Office at your school after you see charges on your student account.
  • Each term, to avoid processing delays, tax withholding or late fees, you must submit the form before the End Date of the Change in Program Period.
  • If you have any questions about your student account, please contact CU Student Financial Services or the Bursar Office at either Barnard College or Teachers College, at the email addresses detailed above.

All new JRGEC forms must be submitted by your supervisor by email to [email protected] to confirm the form has been signed and certified as job-related.

Columbia University reserves the right to change or terminate the Tuition Exemption Benefit Program at any time, consistent with its obligations under the National Labor Relations Act. Please note that this program does not cover courses taken outside Columbia University, Barnard or Teachers College. Consult your collective bargaining agreement for more information about tuition.