Overview of Columbia University's
Domestic Partner Benefits for  
Faculty, Officers & Nonunion Support Staff

Compiled by Michael Susi
GABLES-CU Domestic Partnership Task Force
September 1995

As of September 1, 1995 Columbia University has become one of a growing number of colleges and universities to offer the full array of its fringe benefits to same-sex domestic partners of its faculty and nonunion employees. Extension of benefits to "spousal-equivalents" began over a decade ago with the extension of library, then gym, privileges. (For students, the University Health Service was a pioneer in this area, extending use to partners of students on the Morningside Campus.) Health benefits was the next major breakthrough, offered here since January 1994. Benefits recently added to this list are: tuition exemption for spouses and dependents in undergraduate and graduate courses and degree programs, primary school tuition scholarships, dental plan membership, and survivorship rights to University apartments.

Following is a comprehensive list of benefits with a short description of the benefit, eligibility criteria, and a contact for further information. The general rule is that all benefits will be offered to partners and dependents on the same terms as those currently offered to opposite-sex spouses. The only differences will be in verifying eligibility and in the taxes accruing to the employee using the benefit(s) for his/her domestic partner.

Please note: Every attempt has been made to verify the information contained herein, but changes in policy may quickly outdate this information. Please inform me of any changes or resistance you may encounter in pursuing these benefits (via e-mail:, but do remember that many of these policies are new and will take an extra bit of perseverance on your part since staff may not always be aware of current policy.


  • Health Insurance

    The University offers domestic partner and dependent coverage under all its health plans (a first in New York State) -- Oxford Point-of-Service (POS) Plan, Aetna plans, or any of the HMOs. Applicants need to fill out the Benefits Selection Form and select either (a) Officer & Partner, or (b) Family. A Dental Plan is also available.

    Eligibility -- The following criteria need to be met during the application procedure:

    1. Both individuals must be of the same gender.
    2. Partners must live together for at least six consecutive months prior to coverage.
    3. Partners must anticipate living together in a personal relationship in which there is "joint and reciprocal" financial responsibility.
    4. Employee will be required to provide any two pieces of documentation that show shared responsibility.

      Acceptable documentation includes:

      1. a joint lease or mortgage
      2. a joint bank account
      3. joint ownership of a motor vehicle
      4. designation of the partner as primary beneficiary in an employee's will
      5. designation of the partner as beneficiary for life insurance or retirement benefits.
      6. assignment of power of attorney to the partner or
      7. NYC Domestic Partnership Registration certificate (Call (212) 669-8190 for more information)

        In addition, the following forms will be required for dependents of the documented partners:

      8. Birth certificate, adoption papers, or guardianship papers.

    Tax Liability -- Because of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations, the employee must pay monthly payroll contributions for the partner's (and dependent's) portion of the coverage (difference between new premium and the officer-only premium) on an after-tax, not a pretax, basis. In addition, under law, the amount that Columbia pays toward the partner's (and dependent's) coverage will count as taxable income. This income is subject to federal income tax and FICA, normally withheld through payroll deductions. This will add significantly to the cost of coverage for your domestic partner and dependent(s).

    Contact -- A benefits specialist can provide you with more information on health insurance options (including the Dental Plan), help you with the tax calculation, and provide you with an enrollment form. 313 Dodge, x42360.

  • Undergraduate and Graduate Tuition Exemption for Domestic Partners & Undergraduate and Primary School Tuition Scholarship for Dependents

    The amount of tuition waived for the partner depends upon several factors, including the year in which the employee was hired, and whether the exemption is used for graduate or undergraduate courses or degrees. The University will pay 100% of the tuition for dependents working toward an undergraduate degree at a Columbia institution; 50% at another undergraduate institution. There is also a pool of funds to be distributed for primary school scholarships. Eligibility - The criteria for these benefits is described above under Health Insurance. If you have provided acceptable documentation for enrollment in that program, it is not necessary to establish partnership again. Tax Liability - The IRS does not consider tuition benefits given to same-sex domestic partners and dependents as exempt from taxes. As long as it holds to that interpretation of the IRS code, the University must report any tuition exemption as taxable income to the employee and take the value of those benefits into account when calculating the taxes withheld from the employee's salary.

    Contact -- For benefits available, tax implications, and forms, contact Tuition Benefits Office, 401 Low Library, x43817.

  • Family Medical Leave Act

    Columbia recognizes domestic partners as it is federally-mandated to recognize spouses in enabling employees to take unpaid leave for personal reasons involving their spouse/partner, children or parents. Above criteria will be required.

    Contact -- For more information, speak to a Benefits Officer in 313 Dodge, x42360.

  • Bereavement Leave

    Up to three days of leave is allowed upon the death of a family member, including domestic partner or child of a domestic partner. This is generally worked out with the employee's supervisor.

  • Library Privileges

    Reading and borrowing privileges for domestic partners, and their children, is available upon application in 234 Butler. Eligibility criteria not required.

    Contact -- Library Information Office, x 42271.

  • Columbia-Owned Apartments

    Survivorship rights are available to domestic partners of full-time officers with tenure or who have been with the University for more than 15 years.

    Contact -- For more information, call the Office of Institutional Real Estate, 400 W 119th St, x49410.


  • Dodge Physical Fitness Center

    Family privileges are accorded to partners and families (children to age 19). Application is taken (with appropriate payment) at the Ticket Office (400 Level). Eligibility criteria not required.

    Contact -- Rates and further information available, x 42546.

  • Off-Campus Registry

    Access to listing of short- and long-term accommodations, as well as shares, in New York City apartments. For hours and access information (a CU ID or letter of introduction is generally needed),

    Contact -- 115 Hartley, x42773


  • Bard Athletic Hall

    Partner membership available. For more information call (212) 305-6853, 50 Haven Ave.

Addendum: Student Benefits

Students may use the Dodge Hall Fitness Center and Bard Hall Athletic benefits described above. In addition, there are the following student-specific benefits:


  • Student Health Service

    Domestic partners (no dependents) of students are seen on a fee-for-service basis. The visit includes all in-house procedures and tests. Any tests sent out or done off-site are billed to the partner by the facility used. Partners do not have access to the in-house dispensary. Primary-care services only; specialty care is not offered.

    Eligibility -- A student is asked to identify his/her partner for record-keeping purposes and may change a designated partner if he/she wishes.

    Contact - University Health Services, 400 John Jay Hall, x42284.

  • Student Housing in Columbia-Owned Apartments

    Applications require that you check either single, couple, and/or children.

    Eligibility -- No documentation required.

    Contact -- Office of Institutional Real Estate, 400 W 119th St, x49410.


  • Student Health Service

    e Partner can be seen if he/she is enrolled as a dependent of the student. However, the Blue Cross Hospitalization group policy does not accept domestic partners as dependents in the Health Sciences. Therefore, domestic partners must show proof of hospitalization coverage in order to enroll as a dependent in the Health Service.
  • Married Student Housing

    Couple and family housing. 50 Haven Avenue, 305-6853.

Michael Susi -- Last Updated: 9/28/95

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Last revision: 11/09/01