Unions - Tuition Exemption

Tuition Exemption - Graduates gather

Columbia University offers members of Local 1199 SEIU (Clerical & Cafeteria Units), Local 1199 Medical Assistants, Local 100 UNITE HERE (Faculty House), MEBA and MM&P and your eligible dependents tuition benefits programs to support the education of you and your family.

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 Local 1199 SEIU (Clerical & Cafeteria Units). Local 1199 Medical Assistants, Local 100 UNITE HERE (Faculty House) or a full-time member of MEBA or MM&P, 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 also does not cover course fees and/or the cost of 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:

  • Local 1199 SEIU/Morningside (Clerical & Cafeteria Units): Seven points per term, up to two courses
  • Local 1199 Medical Assistants: Seven points per term, up to two courses
  • MEBA/MM&P: Seven points per term, up to two courses
  • Local 100: Seven points per term (six points during first year), up to two courses

Part-time Support Staff:

Part-time support staff, excluding members of MEBA and MM&P who are not eligible if they work part-time, 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.

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

Your spouse or same-sex domestic partner may also be eligible for the unused portion of your own Tuition Exemption benefit for undergraduate or graduate courses at Columbia only.

Your dependent children may be eligible for the unused portion of your own Tuition Exemption benefit if they are enrolled in a Bachelor’s or higher degree program at Columbia only, after you have completed the required service. 

Benefit for Spouse or Same-Sex Domestic Partner and Dependents

Your spouse or same-sex domestic partner may also be eligible for the unused portion of your own Tuition Exemption benefit for undergraduate or graduate courses at Columbia only.

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, after you have completed the required 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 (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 relevant collective bargaining agreement for exact eligibility requirements.

The support staff member must also be actively at work and not on any kind of leave of absence. (For regular MEBA and MM&P employees, periods of time off-vessel are considered active employment.) The staff member must be covered under a collective bargaining agreement with one of:

  • Local 1199/Morningside (Clerical & Cafeteria Units)
     
  • Local 1199 Medical Assistants
     
  • Local 100 (Kitchen & Dining Room Employees)
     
  • MEBA, MM&P

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.

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

When Eligibility Starts

The MEBA and MM&P support staff members and his or her spouse/same-sex domestic partner can apply for and receive the Tuition Exemption Benefit as of the staff member’s hire date. For hire dates which fall after a term’s first day of classes, the staff member, or spouse or same-sex domestic partner, receive a pro-rated portion of the normal tuition benefit. Use the tables titled “Pro-rated Tuition Exemption Benefit for Support Staff” below to calculate the available benefit.

For some collective bargaining units, waiting periods apply:

  • MEBA and MM&P have no waiting period
  • Local 1199 SEIU/Morningside (Clerical & Cafeteria Units): Full-time and part-time employees hired after June 1, 2015 must meet a two (2) semester waiting period before being eligible to receive Tuition Exemption Benefits for the following semester. This applies to the employee, as well as the spouse or same-sex domestic partner. The two-semester waiting period is administered as 7 months.
     
  • Local 100: Full-time and part-time employees hired after March 1, 2015 must meet a two (2) semester waiting period before being eligible to receive Tuition Exemption benefits for the following semester. This applies to the employee, as well as the spouse or same-sex domestic partner. The two-semester waiting period is administered as 7 months.
     
  • Local 1199 Medical Assistants: Full-time employees hired after 1/1/2019 must meet a two (2) semester waiting period before being eligible to receive Tuition Exemption benefits for the following semester. The two-semester waiting period is administered as 7 months. This applies to the employee, as well as the spouse or same-sex domestic partner.

Eligibility for Support Staff Family Members

In addition to being eligible for the Tuition Exemption benefit, support staff and 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/Morningside (Clerical & Cafeteria Units), Local 1199 Medical Assistants, MEBA, MM&P: Dependents are eligible after the support staff member has worked 2 years.
       
    • Local 100: Dependents are eligible after the support staff member has worked 4 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 less than one year of employment. Reimbursable points for these unions change after the first year of employment.

    Layoff

    If a support staff member is laid off during a term and he or she is either  represented by a Union Local, 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.

    Termination

    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 will 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 on Termination or Job Status Change” table below to determine how many exemption points you are eligible to receive.

    * Full-time members of Local 100 or TWU receive only 6 points per term during the first year of employment.

    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:
       

     

    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.