The Columbia Business School Loan Assistance Program aims to encourage MBAs to take management and leadership positions in the public and nonprofit sectors, and with social ventures. The program is designed to help alleviate the financial burden associated with repaying education loans while pursuing a career in these sectors, which typically pay lower salaries but have unmet needs that Columbia Business School graduates are able to address. The Loan Assistance Program was made possible by a gift from the Class of 2005, and originated from the Guenther Family Public and Nonprofit Assistance Grant, a program established in 1998 which awarded post-graduation grants to MBAs entering the public and nonprofit sectors. The Program is jointly administered by the Office of Financial Aid and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School.

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Eligibility for the Loan Assistance Program is based on the following factors: the date of graduation from Columbia Business School, the nature of the graduate's employment and financial need (including income and loans). The Loan Assistance Program is not an entitlement; eligibility and selection are determined by the School’s Office of Financial Aid and Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and by a Selection Committee. Benefits are distributed on a funds-available basis. All determinations made by the School and the Committee are final. The School and the Committee reserve the right to restructure the program as necessary.

Year of graduation

MBA and EMBA graduates of Columbia Business School, from the U.S. or internationally are eligible to apply for loan assistance at any point within the first five years following the date of graduation, and may be eligible to participate for up to ten years after graduation. Graduates from the Classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 are eligible to apply for loan assistance for the October 2022 deadline. Graduates from the Classes of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 who have previously received loan assistance are also eligible to apply this year. In the event of high demand, recent graduates will be given priority for loan assistance. For dual degree students, the date of graduation is defined as the date by which the applicant has completed the degree requirements of both schools. For example, an MBA/MIA dual degree applicant who completes the MBA degree requirements in May 2021 and the MIA requirements in May 2022 is considered a member of the Class of 2022 for purposes of the Loan Assistance Program.


Loan Assistance is available to graduates employed full-time (minimum 35 hours per week) at an eligible organization as described below. We also note that it is impossible to provide a perfect and comprehensive set of guidelines on the eligibility criteria, so some discretion will inevitably remain for the Committee to adjudicate on individual cases. Social entrepreneurs in particular, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Eligible organizations include:

  1. An approved tax exempt organization in the United States with 501(c)(3) status of the Internal Revenue Code which performs a clear public benefit, and which is approved by the Committee;
  2. An approved local, state or federal government agency of the United States;
  3. An approved government or nonprofit organization located outside of the United States;
  4. An approved multi-lateral or international non-governmental organization;
  5. Low-profit limited liability companies (L3C);
  6. Microfinance or non-bank financial institutions that focus on low-income customers;
  7. Social purpose for-profit ventures or businesses (including B-Corporations) producing products and/or services that:
    - focus on addressing the needs of low income communities or customers, with an explicit purpose of increasing the welfare of these groups; or alleviate a market failure, and create significant public goods or benefits that are not wholly captured in the price charged by the business; and
    - have attracted funding for the business by investors or grant makers who are seeking measurable social or environmental impacts (evidence of these metrics and reporting should be included in the application).

Graduates who apply for support when working with organizations in these last three categories (5 – 7) must provide detailed evidence of the organization’s clearly defined social or environmental purpose and how this is incorporated into the core strategies and operations of the business.

In addition, for organizations in these last three categories (5 – 7) incorporated more than 5 years prior to the date of application, applicants should include summary financial statements. For for-profit ventures incorporated less than 5 years prior to the date of application, applicants should provide evidence of investment or funding attracted to date.

Positions with large or publicly listed companies and with for-profit consulting firms that consult to nonprofits, public sector, or other social/environmental organizations are ineligible. Organizations with a narrow political or religious focus or with discriminatory hiring policies will be excluded from eligibility at the discretion of the Committee. Please note Columbia University employees are not eligible for this award.

Graduates who receive awards while employed in organizations in the last three categories (5 – 7) should also note that forgiveness of their award may be reported as taxable income. Please refer to the Tax Treatment section below for additional resources.

The Loan Assistance Program will count up to three months of parental, maternity or family leave as part of the eligible employment period provided the graduate returns to an eligible employer.

Changes in employment including: end of employment, change of hours (from full- to part-time) or any leave of absence (e.g., paternal/maternity/family leave), MUST be reported to the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. Graduates will be required to repay any funds that were given to them for which they have later become ineligible. Please note failure to repay the portion of the award for which you are no longer eligible will disqualify you from further participation in the loan assistance program. The Loan Assistance Committee reserves the right to make exceptions for special circumstances.

Income and Assets

Applicants earning $95,000 or less annually are given priority for loan assistance, but all salary ranges are eligible to apply. Calculations of annual income include bonuses, commissions and housing allowances. Spousal income and dependents are not considered in determining loan assistance. Significant assets other than retirement accounts will be taken into consideration by the Committee when determining eligibility for loan assistance awards.


The applicant must have demonstrated financial need during enrollment at Columbia Business School and must have obtained educational loans to address this need. Loans must be in repayment or grace status at the time of application, as defined by the loan servicer. We will not consider loans in delinquent or default statuses.

The Loan Assistance Program is intended to cover loans related to enrollment at Columbia Business School which are certified by the Office of Financial Aid. If the Office of Financial Aid did not certify the loan, then the applicant must prove the funds were borrowed to fund study while attending the School, in order to be considered. Refinanced loans are eligible, but applicants must submit a consolidation disclosure statement, provided by the lender, showing the underlying loans.

Loans not covered by the Loan Assistance Program include:

  • Forgivable loans and funds received from employers under conditional contracts (e.g., tuition reimbursement, salary advance, etc.) toward the borrower's tuition, books and supplies, and other fees, unless the applicant has entered into a repayment agreement with that employer as a result of breaking the conditional contract in order to work with an eligible organization. In such cases the applicant must submit all documentation pertaining to the loan repayment agreement between the applicant and the former employer.
  • Consumer debt used to finance higher education.
  • Loans obtained for living expenses above the standard two-year cost of attendance student budget as determined by the Office of Financial Aid.


The amount of annual loan assistance awarded to each individual is determined by education debt level and annual income. Initial assistance will be awarded on the basis of the applicant's level of debt (see table below). Additional funds, if available, will be disbursed on a sliding scale basis according to annual income. Loan assistance awards in excess of the amounts outlined below are contingent on availability of funding and will vary from year to year depending on the size and composition of the applicant pool.


Total Debt Estimated Annual Assistance
<$30,000 $2,000
$30,000 - $40,000 $3,000
$40,001 - $50,000 $4,000
$50,001 - $60,000 $5,000
$60,001 - $70,000 $6,000
$70,001 - $80,000 $7,000
$80,001 - $90,000 $8,000
$90,001 - $100,000 $9,000>
$100,000 $10,000*

* In some circumstances, higher levels of assistance may be offered. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis, for applicants with low total income and high business school related loan repayments (on a minimum 10-year repayment schedule). The maximum annual assistance is $30,000.

You are expected to apply all funds disbursed through the loan assistance program to the repayment of your loans, even if the amount disbursed exceeds the repayment amount required by the loan servicer. You will be required to submit monthly loan statements or cancelled checks as proof of repayment.

Tax Treatment

The program is intended to provide loan assistance awards that are potentially excludible from the recipient's income under Section 108(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. Under current guidance from the IRS, in order for the award to be excludible the recipient is required to work (1) in occupations with unmet needs or in areas with unmet needs, and (2) for or under the direction of a governmental unit or a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (outside of Columbia University). Columbia University employees are not eligible for this award.

Additional information can be found in Section 5 of IRS Publication 970, which can be found at Graduates who apply for support when working with organizations in categories 5 – 7 above may be subject to different tax treatment. If you have additional questions, you are advised to consult with a financial advisor regarding the tax consequences for loan assistance awards.


Applications will be reviewed by the Office of Financial Aid, Columbia Business School administrators and alumni to determine the eligibility, appropriate documentation of educational loans and repayment schedules.

Selection criteria

Applicants will be selected on the basis of financial need, as outlined above and determined by the Office of Financial Aid, and on the following:

  • Quality of the job: includes the level of responsibility, opportunities for professional growth, the use of MBA specific skills and the applicant's potential impact on the organization's capacity to fulfill its mission.
  • Job fit: includes the applicant's long-term professional and personal goals and how the position contributes to those goals.

Other relevant criteria may be taken into consideration at the Committee's discretion. Applicants may be called upon to answer questions from the Committee.

Application Process


The deadline for submitting all required application materials is October 15. All required application materials must be submitted to the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise; applications will not be processed until all information is complete and accurate. Supplemental information may be requested by the Office of Financial Aid, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and/or the Selection Committee. Applicants will be notified of their status typically within one month of the application deadline.

Applicants are awarded funding for one year and must reapply to receive funding in subsequent years. Applicants who have been turned down for loan assistance may reapply in the next program year provided they are still within five years of their date of graduation and meet all other eligibility requirements as outlined above.

Award disbursement

Payments for each annual award are disbursed as interest-free loans from Columbia Business School in one installment which covers the period January 1 to December 31. The loan is "forgiven" at the end of the one-year period provided you are still eligible under the terms outlined above and have complied with all administrative procedures, including the submission of materials in May to confirm eligibility (see instructions for "Eligibility Confirmation" below).

If selected for loan assistance, you will receive an award letter and a promissory note from the Office of Financial Aid. You will also be required to provide a thank you letter to supporters of the Loan Assistance Program. The award letter will state how much you have been awarded assuming that there is no change in your income, employment status or debt category.

You will be asked to sign the promissory note and return it to the Office of Financial Aid. Funds will be disbursed by direct deposit after receipt of the signed promissory note, and the setup of your bank account details with the University. It is your responsibility to pay the full amount of your award to the lender or loan servicer prior to the submission of the Eligibility Confirmation Materials on May 1. During the application process, or the period between the receipt of the application materials and the disbursement of the loan assistance payment, you should continue to make all required loan payments.

Each disbursement of funds from the Loan Assistance Program is made with the understanding that you will remain employed by the eligible organization described in the application for the full year. Any change in job, salary or number of hours (from full- to part-time) must be immediately reported to the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. You will be required to repay any funds advanced for which you have later become ineligible, at an amount prorated to the day that you became ineligible. If the funds are not repaid, you will no longer be eligible for funding from the Loan Assistance Program.

Required application materials

  1. A completed Loan Assistance Program application.
  2. A personal statement, not exceeding 2,500 words, describing the organization, the nature of the position, your reasons for taking the job, the contributions you hope to make to the organization using your MBA skills and your long-term career goals. This information may be shared with program donors.
  3. A current resume.
  4. Verification of outstanding loan debt from lenders or servicers, including a summary statement of total outstanding loan balances, required monthly repayment, history of previous loan payments, and information about your repayment plan and expected payoff dates.
  5. A letter from your employer/supervisor indicating the start date of employment, the nature of your position, number of hours worked per week, and your annual salary (including any commission, bonuses or other financial remuneration).
  6. Information about the organization, its mission and program activities (e.g., annual report, brochure).
  7. Proof of your employer's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, or equivalent tax exempt status outside of the United States. The document must specify the type of tax-exempt status, not merely state that the organization is tax-exempt. Individuals working for federal, state or local government agencies do not need to submit proof of tax exempt status; OR
    For other organizations: proof and date of incorporation; statement of which category (5 -7 above) your employer is in; detailed evidence of integration of social/environmental purpose in core strategies and operations of the business (and any other proof the shows your organization is eligible); and summary financial statements if older than 5 years, or evidence of investment or funding attracted to date for ventures less than 5 years old.
  8. A copy of your most recent U.S. Federal Tax Return (1040), including all schedules and W-2 forms, and/or equivalent tax return documents filed outside of the United States. For foreign tax statements, include copies of the most recent tax statements from any and all countries in which you filed and a written statement indicating all countries with which you filed tax return documents. If you filed a U.S. 1040 NR form, please provide a copy of this as well. If you did not file a tax statement in any country, please provide a written explanation.
  9. A written statement showing foreign currency conversion rates to U.S. dollars at the time of application, for any information provided in the documentation above, if relevant.
  10. If you have not received loan assistance before, a W9 form (US citizens and US resident aliens) or W8BEN form (non-US citizens).

Eligibility Confirmation

Graduates who have previously received loan assistance must submit confirmation materials after receipt of the award in order to continue to qualify for assistance. The following materials are required:

  1. Proof of annual income, such as a recent pay statement including year-to-date salary information.
  2. Proof of loan repayment, in the form of cancelled checks or statements from the lender or loan servicer reflecting the full amount of the award.
  3. If you have changed jobs, you will also need to submit the following materials:

    A job update, 2–3 pages in length.
    Proof of employment at an eligible organization, in the form of a letter from the employer that must include your current annual salary. This letter should include the starting date of employment, the nature of your position, and your annual salary including any commission or bonuses, and proof of the new organization's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or equivalent status outside of the United States.

All materials should be emailed to [email protected] from your work account as confirmation that you remain employed with the same organization. Materials should be received no later than May 1. The Office of Financial Aid and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise will examine the information you provide, and if it is sufficient, they will cancel the promissory note that you received in your award disbursement. If the renewal materials indicate you are no longer employed with a qualifying organization, you will be notified and expected to repay an amount prorated to the day you became ineligible.


Inquiries about the application process and program guidelines should be directed to [email protected].