SSA - Tuition Exemption

Tuition Exemption - Graduates gather

The Tuition Exemption benefit for Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East SSA Area is available to full-time and part-time Support staff members on payroll and their eligible spouses and same-sex domestic partners once the two semester waiting period has been met. Dependent Children are eligible for the Tuition Exemption Benefit after the Support staff member has worked two years.

Eligibility for You

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 is 20 hours per week; 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 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East SSA Area

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.

 

Support Staff and Spouse or Same-Sex Domestic Partner: Timing and Waiting Periods

The Support Staff member and his or her spouse/same-sex domestic partner can receive the Tuition Exemption benefit once the waiting period is met:

  • Waiting Period, Local L1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East SSA Area: Full-time hired on or after 1/1/2014 and part-time Support Staff hired on or after 6/1/2019 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.

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 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East SSA Area: 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 is 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.

 

As a Local 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East SSA Area 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.

In general, the benefit for Support Staff applies during the academic year (September-May) to undergraduate and graduate courses 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 covered at 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 in undergraduate or graduate courses at Columbia, Barnard or Teachers College.
     
  • 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.

Part-time SSA members must be regularly scheduled to work for at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for tuition exemption benefits. 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 only, not at Barnard or Teacher’s College.

In addition, dependent children must be enrolled at Columbia as candidates for a Bachelor’s, or Master’s 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. To be eligible, you must have completed two years of continuous service.

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 doctoral courses

 

How to Apply

You must complete the application process for Tuition Exemption at the beginning of each term. This means your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form and other materials must be submitted to the appropriate office at your school during the Change of Program Period (see the Academic Calendar for details).

Tuition Exemption Checklist – Support Staff, has proven to be a helpful guide the accessing your benefit.

If it is determined you are not eligible for the course(s) you are enrolled in, you will be responsible for the cost of tuition if you continue to attend. Columbia University does not accept responsibility for denied coverage if you or the course are found to be ineligible for the benefit.

After you have been accepted as a student and registered for classes, apply for Tuition Exemption each term by completing the following steps:

Note: You will need to print, complete and sign your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System ("CUBES"). Eligible dependents will need the Support Staff Member to print this form for them.

 

Log in to CUBES. You will be asked to enter your UNI and password and confirm your access using multifactor authentication (DUO).
 
To print this form:

  • Once logged in, select "Tuition."
     
  • On the Tuition Programs page, select “Tuition Exemption – For Yourself” or “Tuition Exemption – For Your Dependents.”

Note: If you are taking courses related to your work, complete a Job-Related Graduate Course Certification form. This form must be completed by you and certified as job-related by your supervisor, signed in ink and dated by you and your supervisor. Attach the form to your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form.

Submit completed and signed Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form:

(If it applies, also submit your signed original Job-Related Graduate Course Certification form)

Columbia Programs:
Scan forms for email submission – tuitionexemption-students@columbia.edu or in person at:

  • Morningside Campus: 205 Kent Hall
     
  • Medical Center Campus (CUMC): 1-141 Black Building

Barnard College Programs: Email bursar@barnard.edu or submit in person to Milbank Hall, Room 15

Teachers College Programs: Email bursar@tc.columbia.edu or submit in person to Thompson Hall, Room 133

 

Spouses/Same-Sex Domestic Partners & Children

After your eligible family member has been accepted as a student and registered for classes, apply for Tuition Exemption each term by completing the following steps:

Note: Whether you are a Support Staff or an eligible family member, you will need to print, complete and sign your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from the CU Benefits Enrollment System ("CUBES"). Eligible dependents will need the Support Staff Member to print this form for them.

1. The Support Staff member must log in with his or her UNI and password to print your Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form from CUBES. The online enrollment system contains your eligibility verification.

2. If dependent eligibility does not appear in the system, Support staff Member will need to add a dependent. Log in to CUBES, using your UNI and password, and confirm your access using multifactor authentication (DUO). Once logged in, select “Profile,” then “My Dependents,” and finally, choose "Add Dependent." Be prepared to scan and upload proof of relationship using the "Upload Documentation" link on the My Dependents screen.

If you are unable to upload documentation, you may fax your documentation to 844-301-7225. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000. Once the documentation is verified and your record is updated, you will be able to print the Tuition Exemption Benefits forms.

Qualifying forms of proof include:

For a spouse: marriage certificate;

For a same-sex domestic partner, any two of the following:

  • Joint lease or mortgage
  • Joint ownership of property
  • Joint bank account statement
  • Designation of the partner as primary beneficiary in your will, or designation of the partner as beneficiary for your life insurance or retirement benefits
  • Assignment of power of attorney to your partner

For a dependent child: birth certificate; adoption papers or guardianship papers

For a dependent stepchild: birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers and marriage certificate;

For a child of a same-sex domestic partner: birth certificate, adoption papers or guardianship papers, and domestic partnership documentation as described above.

3. If you are an eligible child not enrolled in a degree program but taking courses at Columbia, you must provide additional documentation from another accredited college or university. This documentation must be on the other school’s letterhead; it must show that you are either a candidate in good standing at the other school (and that the courses you are taking are part of your academic program), or that you are enrolled in courses specified in writing by an admissions officer as required for admission into an accredited undergraduate or graduate degree program. The other school must be accredited by an organization recognized by the American Council on Education.

4. Submit the completed and signed Tuition Benefit Eligibility Form to Student Financial Services in 205 Kent Hall (Morningside), or Registration & Financial Services at CUMC in 1-141 Black Building (Medical Center), during the Change of Program Period each term (see the Academic Calendar for details).

Withdrawing or Dropping from Courses

Once a Support Staff Member or dependent applies for the Tuition Exemption benefit, he or she may drop a course before the close of the Change of Program Period without using the Tuition Exemption benefit.

After the close of the Change of Program Period, the Support Staff Member or dependent must contact the school in which he or she is enrolled about dropping a course. Additionally, if the Support Staff Member or Dependent drops a course after the end of the Change of Program Period, the Support Staff Member or dependent will be deemed to have used the Tuition Exemption benefit for one course, even though the amount of the Tuition Exemption benefit may be pro-rated based on the withdrawal date. This course will count toward any course limitation in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

If you need to drop a course after the end of the Change of Program period as described above, and you do not want the dropped course to count toward any Tuition Exemption benefit course limitation, you must contact Student Financial Services and ask that the Tuition Exemption benefit be removed from your student account. You then will be responsible for any remaining tuition liability. However, the dropped course will no longer count toward any course limits in the Tuition Exemption Benefit Policy.

 

If you do not want to continue a course, you should arrange with the appropriate School and the Registrar to drop it by the end of the first week of classes to avoid any possibility of financial responsibility, and to avoid having the course count toward the course limits.

Note: Dropping all of your courses means withdrawing from the University. The University may charge a $75 fee for withdrawals depending on when you withdraw from the University, and this fee is not covered under this Tuition Exemption Benefit Program.

 

Changes in Employment Status

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 benefits for any subsequent term. Consult your collective bargaining agreement.

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.

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, 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.

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 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.

 

To ensure the tax exemption is applied to your student account for:

  • Non-Degree Programs – Forms must be certified and submitted each term with your Tuition Exemption Benefits eligibility form to the SFS office
     
  • Degree Programs – Forms must only be certified once (unless you change your degree program, or job); however, a copy of the certified form must be submitted each term with your Tuition Exemption Benefits eligibility form to the SFS office.

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

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.

Email or drop off your signed form(s):

Columbia Programs

If you have any questions about your student account, please contact SFS at tuitionexemption-students@columbia.edu, at Morningside, 205 Kent Hall, (212) 854-4400; and at CUIMC, 1-141 Black Building, or by phone at 212-342-4790.

 

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.