NUSS - Tuition Exemption

Tuition Exemption - Graduates gather

The Tuition Exemption benefit program pays tuition costs, depending on your eligibility, for undergraduate and graduate courses at Columbia University, Barnard College and Teachers College. This is not a reimbursement or remission program; when you submit your eligibility form to your school, your tuition is simply exempt.

Coverage & Eligibility

As a member of the University's Non-Union Support Staff, tuition for undergraduate or graduate courses is covered at 100%, up to a certain number of credits each 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.

Benefit 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. 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 points per term
  • Part-time Support Staff: Part-time Support Staff, may receive tuition exemption for one course per term, up to three points during the first year and up to four points per term every year after that.

Note: The required number of hours in a regularly scheduled part-time work week may vary.

Benefit for Dependents

Eligible 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 (e.g., 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

Any full-time or part-time NUSS member 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.

You must also be actively at work and not on any typle of leave of absence.

The staff member must be in a Non-Union Support Staff position.

In addition to being eligible for the Tuition Exemption benefit, you must also be accepted into the school you wish to attend. 

When Eligibility Starts

Non-Union Support Staff: Timing and Waiting Periods

The following waiting periods apply:

  • For Non-Union Support Staff, full-time and part-time employees hired after 7/1/2013 must meet a two-semester waiting period before being eligible to receive Tuition Exemption benefits for the following semester. The two-semester waiting period is administered as seven months.

Family Members

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

Dependent Waiting Periods

The following waiting period apply before dependent children are eligible for the Tuition Exemption benefit:

  • Non-Union Support Staff dependents are eligible after the Support Staff member has worked two 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 are 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 you are laid off during a term, the Tuition Exemption benefit granted for that term will not be revoked. However, you will not receive Tuition Exemption Benefit for any subsequent term.  


If your employment terminates for any reason during a term in which you have been 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 or Job Status Change” 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

If your status changes from full-time to part-time during a term,consult the “Full Time” column in the “Prorated Benefit Available Per Term Based on Termination or 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.

See guidelines on whether you qualify for the Job-Related tax exemption and for employee and supervisor instructions on how to certify.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, 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 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.


Columbia Programs

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.

Basic Checklist to Apply:

  1. Confirm your eligibility and learn what’s covered
  2. Register for classes
  3. Review tax implications and job-relatedness
  4. Submit Completed Tuition Exemption Benefits and Job-Related Graduate Education Certification forms to Student Financial Services:

    Due to Covid-19 protocols, “in person drop-off” of Tuition Exemption and Job-Related forms has been temporarily suspended. Please submit your forms via the email addresses below:

Due to Covid-19 protocols, 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.