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Financial Aid and Education Abroad

What forms of aid that can be used for education abroad?

Students can potentially (upon review of eligibility) use Federal Direct Stafford loans as well as Pell Grant funds and SEOG to assist them with their education abroad trip.  Students also may be able to use specific types of institutional aid, depending on their destination. For example, institutional aid can be used towards tuition with our semester exchange partners. Students may also apply for an Education Abroad scholarship that can be used on any approved program. Lastly, a student may also use private student loans.   As each student’s needs are different, please be sure to speak with the financial aid office for specifics.

Factoring in financial aid as you plan your education abroad trip.

The best advice for students thinking about participating in an education abroad program is to plan ahead.  If the education abroad program is approved and the credits will transfer back into Columbia College for credit towards the degree, federal financial aid can be used to help offset the costs while you are outside the country.  Students may want to consider even a year in advance setting aside their refunds each session in order to have the funds in place well in advance of the actual departure.

If you haven’t submitted your FAFSA, this is the first step in the process for being reviewed and receiving financial aid.  Be sure to have your entrance counseling and Direct Stafford loan MPN completed if you plan to take out loans. Not having these already completed will cause a delay in the process.

One of the many factors when considering education abroad and using financial aid for help in defraying the cost of the tuition and transportation costs is that your eligibility will need to be reviewed.  Also know there are limits on the amount of financial aid a student can receive.  For instance, the cost of attendance and estimated family contribution (EFC) both play a major role in determining need based aid for a semester or a session.  The number of credit hours approved and the length of the trip will play a part.  How close a student is to graduating with their degree and annual loan limits both play a role in loan eligibility.  Timing of disbursement of financial aid also must be considered. 

There are a lot of factors to take into account as you plan for education abroad so please be sure to reach out to the financial aid office for assistance and questions. 

Frequently asked questions

Q:  Do I need to fill out a consortium agreement in order to get financial aid disbursed during my education abroad trip?

A: No, we do not require this extra paperwork for education abroad students.

Q:  Can I use my federal aid to help pay for my trip?

A: In most instances you can but there are guidelines such as the classes taken will need to be approved by Columbia College  and be required for your degree program.

Q:  Can I receive my financial aid while I am out of the country even if I am not enrolled at Columbia College?

A: If your coursework is approved and your financial aid is in place, yes.  Disbursement will occur, depending on the session, after the add/drop date.  Please work with financial aid to make sure there are no delays in disbursement of your  financial aid.

Q:  When will I receive my refund while I’m abroad?

A: Refunds are generated the week following the add/drop dates of each session.  You can check online for refund dates in each session.

Q:  How much can I borrow?

A: We recommend that students only borrow what they need. You will want to get a good idea of tuition and travel costs, etc. and plan your annual loan limit ahead of time. Depending on the length of the trip, you will need to consider the cost of attendance for a semester or an 8 week session.

Q:  Do I have to pay the tuition and travel expenses out of my own pocket or will Columbia College pay the visiting school directly?

A: Students are expected to pay out of pocket for all travel fees  and costs associated with their education abroad trip.  That being said, there are flexible payment plans with deadlines to be observed.  Your financial aid can be used upon review and approval but will not disburse to you until after add/drop of the session.


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