Reduced Residency FAQ

Have questions about Financial Aid? Answers here

Have questions about Registration? Answers here

Have questions about Field Education? Answers here

Have questions about Advising? Answers here


What is the Reduced Residency program?

The Reduced Residency program was created to give employees of social service agencies and other nonprofit organizations the opportunity to move their careers to the next level by earning an MSW over a period of several (usually three) years. As a Reduced Residency student, you will find that, unlike students in our Two-Year and Extended programs, you will be able to continue working at your agency for the first two years of your degree, while completing foundational coursework that connects your work experience with social work theory. What makes you similar to students in all of our other programs is your desire to receive first-rate field education training that you know only CSSW can provide. Even if you elect to remain at your agency to work in Year 3, you’ll be completing your field requirements in another department. Or you may leave your agency altogether at that point and take a placement organized by the School. For more information, please review the Reduced Residency Guide.


  • Students must request to be admitted to this program when they apply to CSSW, as the application and admission process is specific to this program.
  • The Reduced Residency Program is structured into two periods: the pre-residency period (usually two years of part-time enrollment while continuing to work full-time at a social services organization), and the residency period (a year of full-time enrollment).
  • In addition to the General Requirements, the Reduced Residency Program requires:
    • Full-time employment in a human services organization for at least two years or half-time for at least four years prior to application.
    • Employment during the pre-residency phase of the program at a human services organization in which the student is providing direct practice services. Students who are employed at a human services organization during the pre-residency phase but not providing direct practice services will be responsible for establishing a mechanism that would allow them to meet the direct practice requirements of the program (e.g., by volunteering).
    • Choice of a method compatible with current work responsibilities.
  • Students in this program fulfill the same 60-credit degree requirement as other students enrolled in the School, and earn their Master of Science in Social Work degree through a combination of part-time and full-time study during a period of no fewer than four terms and no longer than four years. In consultation with the Office of Advising, Reduced Residency students develop an academic plan that meets the program requirements.
  • While the School does offer select classes in the evening, it is not possible to complete all program requirements by only taking evening classes. Reduced Residency Program students generally are able to take all background courses in the evening (6-8 p.m.), however most practice courses are only offered during the day or early afternoon.
  • Only students enrolled in the Reduced Residency Program may qualify to use their place of employment as their field placement site. However, this is not guaranteed; all Reduced Residency sites must meet the CSSW Field Education Department criteria as outlined in the Reduced Residency Guide.
Back to top

Financial Aid

What is the cost per year?

Cost of attendance for our residential campus can be found here. Cost of attendance for our online campus can be found here.

Will I always be charged per credit?

Yes. Even when you are enrolled full-time and are in field education, you will always be charged per credit for your tuition. 

What fees do I have to pay each term? Is it the same as the regular Two-Year Program students?

Your fees will vary slightly depending on your enrollment status. For example, when you are registered less than full-time, you are not automatically charged the Health Service Fee or Student Medical Insurance Fee, unlike Two-Year students who immediately incur these charges. Each term, you should expect to be charged tuition (per credit), a Facilities Fee, Student Activity Fee, and Technology Fee. Once you are enrolled full-time, you also will be charged the Health Service Fee and Student Medical Insurance Fee—though the latter can be waived if you already have comparable coverage. Also during your first term of enrollment, you will be charged a Student Events Fee and a Transcript Fee.

What types of financial aid are available? Am I eligible for scholarships?

Financial aid awards typically include a mix of institutional/merit scholarships, federal loans, Federal Work-Study, and other types of loans. As long as you are registered for at least six credits per term, you are eligible for federal loans. You may also be eligible for the Reduced Residency 50% Tuition Scholarship if you are employed in an agency that qualifies you for this (your registration status does not matter for this scholarship). Once you are enrolled in your second-year field placement and are full time (10.5 or more credits), you may also be eligible for a general scholarship and/or work-study, if you are not receiving the RRP Scholarship.

How do I know if I’m eligible for the Reduced Residency 50% Tuition Scholarship?

Eligibility is determined by your employment by an agency that has hosted a Columbia student for a field placement within the past three years. To apply, go to the online Reduced Residency Scholarship Application. (It is accessible via Net Partner, the main financial aid account resource for CSSW students.) Our Office of Financial Aid, after consulting with our Director of Field Education, will add the award to your financial aid package at the beginning of the term if you are eligible.

If I get the RRP scholarship in my first year, will I get it every year after that?

As long as you remain employed at the qualifying agency, and it continues to be an eligible placement site for Columbia students, your award will be renewed. But please remember that you must submit a new RRP Scholarship Application every year. NOTE: If you choose to accept a School-selected placement rather than use your agency as your placement site, you will no longer be eligible for the RRP scholarship. However, we will review your FAFSA to determine if you qualify for an institutional scholarship

How can I apply for financial aid?

Your first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once we receive your FAFSA data, we can begin the evaluation process for determining your financial aid award package.

When are the forms for financial aid due? And where do I find them?

Your FAFSA is due by February 1 of each year, and loan request forms are due by July 1 of each year. If additional forms are required, the Office of Financial Aid will notify you via e-mail and communicate due dates at that time. Financial aid forms are accessible online.

When will I find out about my financial aid package?

We usually begin processing financial aid packages in March, and notifications are sent out thereafter. You will receive your financial aid award letter via e-mail.

What types of loans can I apply for?

All students who complete a FAFSA are eligible to receive the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Once you accept the loan, you must complete an entrance interview, sign a master promissory note, and fill out a loan request form. The funds will then be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of each term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 1.068% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.

In addition to the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, you may choose to borrow either a Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan or a private educational loan. The maximum amount you may borrow for either loan is listed under the Alternative Eligibility fund in your award letter.

The Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan is a fixed interest loan program that enables graduate students to borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education to help pay for their educational expenses. This loan, which is based on credit-worthiness, requires a separate entrance interview, master promissory note, and loan request form. For more information, go to Questions and Answers About Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate and Professional Students. If you are approved for a PLUS loan, the funds will be disbursed automatically to your student account at the beginning of the term. NOTE: The Department of Education charges a 4.272% origination fee on this loan, which will be deducted prior to the funds being disbursed.

If you have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Office of Financial Aid at or 212-851-2293; or make an appointment to speak to one of us.

What if I’m denied the PLUS loan or a private loan?

If you are denied the PLUS Loan, we strongly encourage you to request a copy of your credit report and clear up any delinquencies of 90 days or more, or challenge any discrepancies you find on that report. You should then appeal to the Department of Education, providing documentation that those discrepancies or issues have been resolved. In our experience, most students who do this succeed in having their initial denial overturned. Another option is to reapply for the PLUS Loan with a credit-worthy co-signer or endorser. If neither of these options works, we suggest that you reach out to our Office of Financial Aid. A financial aid officer will ask you to compile and submit a monthly budget listing all of your basic living expenses (rent, food, utilities, personal expenses, etc.). This additional information will allow the financial aid office to calculate the assistance you still need and how much CUSSW can cover.

What if I have additional questions on my financial aid package, scholarships, loans, or related matters?

For help with additional financial aid questions, please contact the Office of Financial Aid at:
Telephone: 212-851-2293

  • By appointment: 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday. (After 5:00 p.m., appointments available by request.) Go to online appointment system.
  • Walk-in: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.)

Back to top


Am I able to complete the program part time?

You can complete a portion of your program with a reduced course load. This does not, however, make it a part-time program. You must be prepared to enroll full time once you begin your field placement. Full-time status is determined based on registration for at least 10.5 credits.

How long can I maintain a reduced courseload?

You may maintain a reduced course load for two years (generally, Year 1 and Year 2).

What classes do I take during my first year?

In your first year, you should plan to take:

  • T660A Human Behavior and the Social Environment-A
  • T660B Human Behavior and the Social Environment-B
  • T6501 Social Work Research
  • T6801 Social Welfare Policy.

In Year 2, you will take:

  • T6011 Field Education Seminar in the Fall and Spring along with T7100 Foundations of SW Practice (Fall)
  • T7102 Direct Practice II (Spring); and T7103 Advocacy for SW Practice (Spring or Summer).

How many classes will I take each year?

Typically, you will take four to six classes per year—two to three classes per term—depending on your selected method area. For sample schedules and program plans for Reduced Residency students, go to our Student Handbook.

Can I take summer classes?

Yes. The School offers one summer session, which begins the week after commencement in May and ends either the last week of June (for classes that meet twice a week) or the last week of July (for classes that meet once a week). If your first term of enrollment is in January, then you should automatically plan to take summer classes. But before taking action on summer classes, please consult with your advisor and then the Office of Student Services to confirm whether the class(es) you have in mind will be offered and you are eligible to sign up. You must enroll for at least 6 credits in order to be eligible for federal loans.

Can I complete a minor?

Yes, but with some restrictions. If you are selected to pursue the Law Minor, please be mindful that Columbia Law School will not allow you to enroll in classes there unless you are already registered as a full-time student. All other minors do not require full-time status. For more details, go to minor requirements in our Student Handbook.

When do I declare my method specialization?

You will officially declare your method specialization at the end of your second year, when completing T6011 and requisite “first-year” practice courses. However, most RRP students make this decision in Year 1 as it could affect their program plans for Years 2 and 3. Your advisor will assist you with mapping out a plan of study.

When do I absolutely have to complete all of my requirements?

All degree requirements must be completed within five years of matriculation at the School.

What if I have additional questions about class listings, course registration, or related matters?

For help with additional registration-related questions, please contact the Office of Student Services and Enrollment at:
Telephone: 212-851-2436; 212-851-2367

  • By appointment: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday. (After 5:00 p.m., appointments available by request.) Go to online appointment system.
  • Walk-in: Wednesdays, 10 a.m – 6 p.m.

Back to top

Field Education

Can I use my job as my field placement site?

While you are not allowed to use your current position to complete your field placement requirement, your agency may serve as your second-year placement site as long as it meets our placement criteria. To check this, please go to the Field Education Manual. If your agency is approved as your field placement site, you will be required to move under a different supervisor and complete different tasks as outlined by your education coordinator and our Field Education Department. During your second year, a representative from the Field Department will visit your T6011 class to discuss the placement process in detail. You will be required to submit specific paperwork and meet one-on-one with field representatives to discuss your placement needs for your final year of study.

If my job initially agrees to be my field placement site but then later backs out, will the school help me find a field placement?

Most definitely! If you initially made arrangements with the Field Education Department to have your agency serve as your second-year placement site, but this is no longer feasible, the department can step in and find you a suitable second-year placement.

What happens if I leave the agency/organization at which I was employed when I started the program?

Leaving the agency or organization at which you were employed at the time of acceptance may have an impact on your Reduced Residency status. As soon as this change of employment occurs, immediately notify the Office of Student Services ( to discuss how it could affect your overall program plan.

What is my field instructor’s role?

Your field instructor is the agency employee responsible for overseeing your training at your field placement. He or she is there to support your learning in the field, to answer questions you may have about interactions with clients and agency employees, and to help you develop direct practice skills. At the end of the term, your field instructor evaluates your work at the agency for your advisor as well as recommending whether you should receive a pass or fail grade. NOTE: Your advisor is the final arbiter of the grade you receive for field education. Under some circumstances, he or she may choose to override the recommendation of the agency field instructor.

What if I need assistance with field-related matters at any point?

For help with field-related matters, please contact the Field Education Department at:
Telephone: 212-851-2307
See also:Field Education staff list

Back to top


When will I find out who my advisor is?

Your advisor’s name and contact information will be viewable on Student Services Online by the end of orientation week. NOTE: If you have questions about your academic program, class scheduling or registration prior to orientation, please contact the Office of Student Services by sending an e-mail to

What is my advisor’s role?

In Year 1 and 2, when you are completing your background courses and foundational practice courses (7100, 7102 and 7103), your advisor is Office of Advising staff member, Yesika Montoya. She helps you map out a program plan for your three years of study. When you begin your field placement in Year 3, your advisor will be a social work professional who is employed by CSSW to serve as your educational support in both the classroom and the field. Click here for Final Year Advisor.

What if my advisor is not available: is there someone else at the School I can speak to?

If you’re not able to reach your advisor, you should contact the Office of Advising. Email

What should I do if questions arise about my academic plan or field placements, or if personal issues arise that could affect my performance in field and class?

For help with additional questions on advising-related matters, please contact the Office of Advising at:
Counseling: By appointment. Go to online appointment system.
See also:Office of Advising Staff Listings & Advisor Directory

Back to top

Still have questions?

If your questions haven’t been answered, we urge you to enter them into our online form. Once your form is submitted, we will direct it to the appropriate department. Our goal is to answer any questions submitted by current students within 24 hours.