Benefits and Family Services


This chapter of the Handbook summarizes the benefits and family services Columbia offers its faculty and officers of research. It begins with an overview of the University’s benefits programs for officers. Next, it discusses the services that have been developed to assist faculty, officers of research, and other officers in meeting the needs of their families, and follows with a description of the policies governing the assignment and use of University housing and parking. It concludes with a summary of the privileges and benefits of retired faculty and officers of research. Each section includes directions to other sources with detailed information on the benefit or service it describes.


Benefits Programs

Faculty and officers of research holding full-time appointments are eligible to participate in the University’s benefits programs for officers. Some of these programs assist officers in meeting the cost of medical and dental care for themselves, their spouses, and dependents. Others help to compensate for the loss of salary if they become disabled, protect them if they are injured while traveling for purposes associated with their University responsibilities, or provide their families with financial assistance if they should die. Still others help them prepare for retirement; aid them in meeting educational costs they incur for themselves, their spouses, and children; or provide assistance with the purchase of homes.

In general, part-time faculty are not eligible for these programs. Barnard College and Teachers College have their own benefits programs; their faculty do not participate in the Columbia programs described in this chapter of the Handbook. The benefits of members of the United Doctors Association of Harlem Hospital Center are determined by their union contract.

In addition to eligible officers, the University provides benefits to their spouses and qualified children. To the extent permitted by law, the University permits qualified same-sex domestic partners to participate on the same terms as legal spouses. Eligible children include adopted, foster, and stepchildren of both the officers and their spouses or same-sex domestic partners. However, most of the benefits plans limit participation to those children who are dependents of an eligible officer. The University defines a dependent child as one who is unmarried and who is either less than 19 or less than 26 and a full-time student. Coverage under the benefits plans normally ceases at the end of the calendar year in which the child turns 19. For those who remain full-time students after that age, it continues until the end of the month in which they cease to be full-time students or the end of the calendar year in which they turn 26, whichever date comes first.

With some benefits, officers must choose their benefits coverage at the time of their initial appointment. Due to IRS rules and restrictions imposed by the insurance carriers, new officers must enroll in the University’s medical, dental, life insurance, and long-term disability plans within 31 days of the start of their appointment in order to have the premiums deducted from their monthly paychecks on a pretax basis. Otherwise, they will need to pay the monthly premium on an after-tax basis directly to EBPA (Employee Benefits Plan Administration), the company with which the University has contracted to manage the administration of benefits payments, until the next calendar year. Additionally, the benefits of officers who enrolled after the 31-day period will take effect from the date of election. The benefits cannot be made retroactive to the start of the officer’s appointment. Departments and schools should be particularly careful to inform new faculty of these requirements, since some will not arrive at the University until shortly before the start of the fall term in September, even though their full-time appointments begin on July 1.

Changes in many benefits can be made only during Open Enrollment, which is usually during the month of October, for the following calendar year, unless there is a significant event in the officers’ lives such as marriage or the birth of a child. When a qualifying event occurs, officers must notify the University’s Benefits Department of the changes they wish to make in their benefits within 31 days of its occurrence.

The terms of the University’s benefits programs are governed by their respective plan documents, which are frequently updated. In the case of conflicting information, the plan documents supersede any statements in this Handbook or any other descriptive materials.

The benefits outlined below are described in detail on the web site of the Office of Human Resources at

The University’s retirement plan is designed to assist eligible officers in realizing their financial objectives in retirement. The plan is fully funded by the University; the individual officer is not required to contribute. Pension contributions on base salary and qualifying additional compensation are made on a monthly basis according to schedules that take into account the officer’s age, tenure status, years of service, total earnings during the calendar year, and whether the officer is a member of one of the University’s faculty practice plans. The University makes contributions, at the direction of the officer, into various retirement investment vehicles, each of which offers a variety of financial options. The retirement investments of faculty appointed in a professorial rank, including those with modifiers in their titles (e.g., clinical, of professional practice, at affiliated hospital or institute) are fully vested immediately. Faculty in nonprofessorial ranks start to participate in the retirement plan after completing two years of full-time service. Retirement contributions cannot be forfeited or lost for any reason.

Officers may supplement the pension contributions they receive by contributing a portion of their salary on a pretax basis to a 403(b) Savings Plan, also referred to as a tax-deferred annuity (TDA). Federal tax law limits the amount of money that may be sheltered in this manner. Officers may invest the salary they set aside through the TDA plan in the same range of options as the University’s pension contributions. Salary reductions, and the earnings on them, are generally not taxed until the individual starts to receive income from the investments they fund.

The University offers eligible officers a choice among several medical care options. Officers with medical coverage from another source may elect not to participate in any of these plans. The University shares in the cost of its medical plans, with the officers’ premiums deducted monthly from their paychecks on a pretax basis.

Anyone who participates in a University medical plan is automatically enrolled in its comprehensive prescription drug coverage program. The plan permits participants to purchase eligible prescription medicines on the payment of a flat co-payment. The prescription coverage is recognized at a wide range of retail pharmacies, with the additional options of mail-order and online purchases for maintenance medications.

Under the dental care plan, eligible officers and their covered dependents may receive dental services from a network of dentists who are alumni of the University’s College of Dental Medicine as well as from the network of dentists provided by Aetna. The plan also permits participants to see other dentists on an out-of-network basis. Officers pay for a portion of the cost of their participation in the program, with the premiums deducted from their paychecks on a pretax basis.

Eligible officers can contribute on a pretax basis to two types of flexible spending accounts (FSAs), which they can use to pay for a wide variety of expenses. The Healthcare FSA covers expenses such as medical and dental deductibles and co-payments, vision or hearing services, and many over-the-counter health products. The Dependent Care FSA covers expenses such as a child care provider, licensed day care centers and nursery schools, and before-school and after-school programs. Participants in FSAs set aside money through regular monthly deductions from their paychecks and then submit reimbursement claims for eligible expenses. Officers can deposit between $120 and $5,000 in one or both accounts.

Through the adoption assistance program, full-time officers can obtain reimbursement for up to $5,000 in expenses they incur for each child they adopt. Participants in this program pay those expenses up front using their own money and then submit reimbursement claims for eligible expenses. The child must be a minor and cannot be a child of the officer’s spouse or same-sex domestic partner. Eligibility to participate in this program begins on the first day of the officer’s full-time appointment. Qualified expenses include reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses that are directly related to the legal adoption of an eligible child. Officers may obtain reimbursement under this program even if the adoption is not finalized.

Full-time officers who are unable to work due to an illness or injury may be eligible to receive their full salary and benefits under the University’s salary continuation plan for up to six months in any consecutive 12-month period or until they return to work, whichever occurs first. If they are disabled after six months and their rights to salary continuation have been exhausted, the University’s long-term disability (LTD) insurance plan is designed to replace a substantial portion of their salaries. Eligible officers are automatically covered by both of these plans at no cost. Officers may elect to buy additional LTD coverage under an optional plan through payroll deductions on an after-tax basis.

Full-time officers automatically receive basic term life insurance of one times salary up to $50,000 at no cost. They may purchase optional life insurance for coverage up to six times their base salary or $1,000,000, whichever is less on an after-tax basis. The election of more than three times salary, or more than $500,000, requires evidence of insurability. The monthly premium for the optional insurance is based on age and the amount of coverage elected.

Full-time officers may also purchase dependent life insurance for their spouses or same-sex domestic partners and dependent children. The coverage choices for a spouse are $10,000, $30,000, or $50,000; for dependent children the amount is $10,000. Officers pay the full cost of this benefit on an after-tax basis through monthly payroll deductions.

The University’s long-term care (LTC) insurance financially assists current and retired officers when they or members of their families can no longer live independently due to chronic physical problems or mental impairment. The insurance helps to pay for some of the costs associated with a lengthy stay in a nursing home or long-term home health care services that are not covered by traditional medical insurance or Medicare. Officers pay the full amount of the premiums through after-tax payroll deductions that will vary depending on the type of plan the officer selects and the officer’s age at initial enrollment. The younger an officer is at enrollment, the lower the premium cost will be. These premiums are eligible for reimbursement from the Health FSA as described above.

To assist officers with commuting expenses, the University’s transit and parking reimbursement programs (T/PRP) permit them to set aside pretax dollars through payroll deductions into a transit or parking account. Eligible expenses during the year can be paid from those accounts by using the Transit Program’s debit card or through reimbursement. Participants have until March 31 of each calendar year to use the funds deposited in these accounts during the previous year. Officers parking in University garages are not eligible for this benefit. However, the cost of their monthly parking fees is deducted from their paychecks on a pretax basis.

The University’s business travel accident plan insures full-time officers, at no cost, for accidental death, dismemberment, or permanent disability while traveling on official University business, including attendance at professional meetings as well as University-sponsored trips. Commutation between one’s home and the University is not covered by the plan. Eligible officers are covered while they are on leave, with or without salary, as long as they are not employed for compensation by another institution. For information on the plan, officers should contact the Office of Risk Management. Those on sabbatical leave should arrange for their travel insurance through the Assistant Provost for Academic Appointments.

Faculty and officers of research can face special risks when they are stationed or traveling outside the United States. The University’s international emergency assistance program, which is offered through the company International SOS, provides those officers and their families (including same-sex domestic partners and the children of those partners) with emergency medical support, evacuation, repatriation, emergency communications, and security assistance anywhere in the world. This program does not take the place of health insurance while they are abroad. More information on the program may be obtained from the University’s Office of Risk Management. An overview of the program and helpful pretravel and country hazard information can also be found at

Full-time salaried officers, with the exception of those appointed in a visiting rank, may participate in the University’s tuition benefits plans. These plans will pay for some or all of the tuition of most degree programs taken at the University and for many individual courses taken as nondegree students. This benefit can be used by officers’ spouses and children and by same-sex domestic partners and those partners’ children as well as themselves. Eligible officers may also obtain partial tuition assistance for children (but not for themselves, their spouses, or same-sex domestic partners) attending undergraduate degree programs at other colleges and universities and may apply for scholarships that will cover a portion of the cost of schooling between kindergarten and Grade 8 if both they and their children live in New York City and their children attend a private school within one of the five boroughs. The eligibility requirements for these plans and the amount of assistance they provide can vary depending on several factors including the officer’s appointment, seniority at the University, and the program or courses in which the student is enrolled. Accordingly, officers should always consult the relevant documents on the web site of the Office of Human Resources or contact a counselor in that Office for a detailed description of the plans.

Members of the University’s staff, including all faculty and officers of research, may obtain assistance in purchasing or refinancing their homes through the affinity lending program. Through arrangements with two commercial mortgage companies, the program offers the potential of reduced interest rates, lower closing costs, and other benefits to qualified borrowers. Information on the program is available through the Human Resources web site at

Last Revised November 2008


Family Services

Columbia has developed a wide range of policies, programs, and services to assist faculty and other officers in meeting their family responsibilities while pursuing their careers at the University. Some are discussed in earlier sections of this Handbook but are summarized here for easy reference. In addition, this section describes several family services recently developed to aid faculty, officers of research, and other officers.

Faculty and officers of research may take various types of child and family leaves. These include:

  • medical leaves for disabilities arising from child birth;
  • leaves to care for newborn or newly adopted children; and
  • FMLA leaves whose purposes, as defined by law, include caring for children, spouses, and parents with serious medical conditions or dealing with needs arising from a family member being called to active military duty.

In addition, full-time faculty on the Morningside campus can participate in the Parental Workload Relief Program, which provides a paid leave of absence for parents of newborn and newly adopted children. These options are described in the sections on “Leaves of Absence” in Chapters III and IV of this Handbook.

Faculty with small children who are subject to the limits on nontenured service face the special problem of preparing for their tenure reviews while caring for their families. To help them achieve that balance, the University excludes some periods of appointment in determining when they must come up for tenure. In addition, it offers the option of a Part-Time Career Appointment for Parents, which slows their tenure clock while permitting them to perform less than their normal full-time responsibilities in order to care for their children. These policies are discussed in detail in the section of Chapter III on “Appointment with Stated Term.” Additional information is available under “Leaves of Absence” in that chapter.

Several of the benefits programs described earlier in this chapter provide financial assistance to faculty and other officers in caring for and educating their children. These include:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts for dependent care expenses;
  • the Adoption Assistance Program;
  • the Primary Tuition Scholarship Program; and
  • the Tuition Benefits Program.

Reporting jointly to the Provost and the Vice President for Human Resources, the Associate Provost for Work/Life provides administrative direction for the University’s family policies and programs. The Associate Provost brings together under one office the existing services and is responsible for developing new initiatives that will help officers in balancing their professional careers at Columbia with their family lives.

Relocation Assistance Programs

Officers who are moving to New York from other parts of the country or abroad must make adjustments in their personal lives as well as starting a new phase in their professional careers. They need to find new housing; often need child care, schooling for children, or elder care; and may have a spouse or partner interested in locating employment. The University offers several services to assist officers and their families in meeting these needs. Some are summarized below. Further information can be found on the web sites dedicated to the individual services or through the web page of the Office of Work/Life at

Higher Education Recruiting Consortium (HERC)

Columbia has joined with universities, colleges, and research institutions throughout the New York metropolitan area and southern Connecticut to build a comprehensive database of employment opportunities in higher education in the region. The Metro New York and Southern Connecticut Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (MNYSC HERC) provides member institutions with an expanded pool of potential job candidates while assisting anyone searching for employment in higher education in that geographic area. It is a particularly valuable tool for assisting the
spouses and partners of prospective and current faculty and other officers in seeking positions of their own.

MNYSC HERC has created a web-based search engine that lists all open faculty and staff positions at the participating institutions. Launched in February 2006, the consortium had over 40 members at the publication of this Handbook and is continuing to grow. Access to its web site at is available to all at no cost. Although registration is not mandatory, registered users can create customized profiles that will generate regular e-mail alerts of positions that match their interests as well as provide them with access to the consortium’s complete listing of positions. Dual-career couples who wish to work in the same geographic area can coordinate their searches by linking their profiles. Clicking on a listing on the MNYSC HERC web site links individuals to that job listing on the member institution’s web site or to its job opportunity web page, where they can find information on how to apply.

MNYSC HERC is one of several regional Higher Education Recruitment Consortia, including ones that serve institutions in New Jersey, upstate New York, and New England. Each regional web site contains links to nearby HERCs, allowing users to search those sites as well.

To ease the transition of individuals who are changing locations as well as looking for new jobs, the web site’s Resources section provides links to other web pagescontaining information on a wide array of regional services and resources.

Dual Career Services

Officers who relocate to the New York area may have spouses or partners who move with them with the intention of finding new positions of their own. HERC facilitates job searches within higher education. In addition, the Office of Work/Life has created a network of career center directors at the University and outside career consultants to assist spouses and partners who want to work in a non-academic setting. Members of the network are available within the first year of the officer’s move to Columbia to provide career counseling, assistance with resume development, referrals, and other forms of support in searching for non-academic employment. Further information on the dual career services is available from the Office of Work/Life.

Lactation Rooms

To help mothers who are simultaneously working or studying and caring for babies, the University has created lactation rooms at several locations on the Morningside campus, with additional rooms located or under development at the Medical Center and at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. These rooms provide a private, secure space that can be locked from the inside. For information on the location of the lactation rooms and how to obtain access to them, officers should contact the Office of Work/Life.

Infant, Toddler, and Pre-School Child Care

To assist faculty, officers of research, and other officers in finding affordable and flexible child care that meets their family’s needs, the University currently has affiliation agreements with six pre-school centers and is in the process of negotiating agreements with several more. A list of the centers with which the University has agreements, plus other child care resources, is available on the web site of the Office of Work/Life at

Affiliated day care providers receive University support and, in return, set aside at least 50 percent of their enrollments for children of Columbia officers, staff, and students. The centers vary in the ages of the children they accept, the type and duration of programs they offer, their application procedures, and their cost. Faculty and research officers should, therefore, contact them directly for information. Officers can also obtain information from the School and Child Care Search Service, which also can direct them to other non-affiliated child care centers.

School and Child Care Search Service

The University has created the School and Child Care Search Service to help families navigate through the complicated and often stressful process of choosing child care or a school in the New York area other than The Columbia K–8 School for Children, described below. The Service works with families seeking to enroll their children in public, private, parochial, and special-needs schools at the preschool, primary, middle, and high school levels. It will also provide advice on college admissions as a supplement to the support provided by students’ high school counselors.

To use the Service, officers should complete an online inquiry form that is available through its web site at Once registered, they may schedule consultations with the Service’s counselors to explore educational opportunities in the region and to obtain assistance in the preparation of school applications. They may also consult the Service’s web site for information on schools in the New York area and for publications and other web sites that can provide assistance in the search process.

The Columbia K–8 School for Children

In 2003 the University opened The Columbia K–8 School for Children to assist faculty and other officers living in New York City in finding high-quality, affordable schooling for their children. The School also facilitates the development of stronger relationships with the University’s neighbors by setting aside half of its enrollments for children of families living in the surrounding community. Located at West 110th Street and Broadway, The School provides an innovative, integrated education to over 500 children in kindergarten through the eighth grade. Information on The School, its curriculum, faculty, admissions procedures, and financial aid policies may be obtained through its web site at

Officers who meet the eligibility requirements of the Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) Program (see “Benefits Programs,” above) may apply to The School for admission for their children. They must hold full-time, salaried appointments in a rank other than one with a visiting or postdoctoral title. In addition, both they and the children they wish to enroll must reside in one of the five boroughs of New York City.

Admissions are made once a year for the school year starting in September. Since the number of openings is limited and demand for admission usually exceeds supply, eligibility does not guarantee acceptance. The University reserves a number of spaces at The School to assist in recruiting and retaining faculty. When the other available spaces are insufficient to accommodate everyone interested in enrolling their children, The School prioritizes among the applicants as follows:

  • Group I: children of eligible full-time officers of instruction in a professorial rank;
  • Group II: children of PTS (Primary Tuition Scholarship) Program-eligible officers of instruction in a nonprofessorial rank, officers of the libraries, officers of research, and teachers in The School itself; and
  • Group III: children of eligible officers of administration other than the teachers in The School.

No one from a lower group is admitted until every child in a higher one is accommodated. When The School cannot admit all applicants within a group, it uses a lottery to make admission decisions but places a percentage cap on the number of officers from any one academic unit of the University whose children can be enrolled.

The School primarily admits to kindergarten, with the expectation that the children will remain enrolled through the eighth grade. Spaces that open in higher grades are generally reserved for the children of newly recruited faculty.

Currently, officers who send their children to The School may obtain assistance from the University in paying for 50 percent of the tuition through the Primary Tuition Scholarship Program.

Backup Care Program

Full-time faculty and officers of research may experience temporary problems in making arrangements for the care of others. In some cases, the need to assume that responsibility is unexpected; in others, well-established care arrangements have been temporarily disrupted. To assist them, as well as other full-time compensated officers, non-union support staff, and doctoral students, so that they do not need to take time off from work or study, the University has developed the Backup Care Program to provide up to 100 hours of support each year by qualified professionals.

The program offers support any time, day or night, throughout the year. It covers both planned and emergency needs. The persons for whom care is required can range in age from infants to adult family members to the elderly. They may be healthy or ill and may reside with the officer or, in the case of adults, live separately anywhere in the United States. The care can be provided at home or in care centers. It can even be used so that a child or adult can accompany an officer who is traveling on professional business.

The program is offered through the Work Options Groups at a small hourly copayment. While participants may register at any time, they are encouraged to do so in advance of when they might need to use the resources of the program. For further information on the program and to register, individuals should contact the Work Options Groups at (800) 557-0847 or consult its web site at

Babysitting Service

Parents in need of assistance in caring for their children can advertise positions with the Barnard Babysitting Agency. The postings are made available to students at Barnard College who have registered with the Agency and received a basic orientation on its rules and policies. The positions may be temporary or one-time jobs. Some students may also be available to work on a regular schedule over an extended period of time. The Agency does not guarantee that a position it posts will be filled. It serves instead as a listing service. The students themselves respond directly to the person who has posted the position. Further information on the Agency’s services may be found at

Last Revised November 2008



The University currently owns more than 160 residential buildings with almost 7,000 apartments. Most of these are located in or near Morningside Heights. A smaller number are located near the Medical Center or in Nyack in Rockland County, New York. The University manages these properties to provide convenient housing for its full-time faculty, other officers, and students.

Most of the apartments in the University housing system are assigned to graduate students. The supply of housing suitable for faculty and other officers is limited in comparison to demand. Therefore, eligibility for housing is restricted to certain categories of full-time compensated officers of instruction, research, the libraries, and administration. A limited number of apartments are also made available for postdoctoral officers and visiting scholars/scientists. Part-time officers, staff officers of research, and support staff are not eligible for University housing. The University may, at its discretion, modify these requirements and its other housing policies in any manner it considers appropriate.

Full-time faculty and other officers holding appointments on the Morningside campus should consult with the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities, which manages the University-owned or controlled apartments in the vicinity of the Morningside campus and in Nyack, about their housing eligibility. Individuals holding appointments at the Medical Center should contact the CUMC Office of Housing Services.

The Provost has issued a statement available on the web at that explains how the University assigns its limited supply of housing. Faculty whom the departments are recruiting or wish to retain receive the highest priority, followed by individuals newly promoted to tenure from the junior faculty. Other faculty and other officers who meet the basic eligibility requirements receive lower priority, in particular if they already have a private apartment or home in New York City or its suburbs. While an officer’s wishes with respect to apartment size, location, and date of occupancy are taken into consideration in the assignment of apartments, it is not always possible to satisfy their preferences.

University apartments are not governed by New York State rent control or rent stabilization laws, except in the case of the tenants who occupied the units prior to the University’s purchase of their buildings. Leases to all other tenants contain an “affiliation clause” that requires the tenants to maintain a full-time affiliation with the University and to vacate their apartments when they cease to be full-time affiliates. Affiliated tenants also lose their rights to University housing if they cease to occupy their apartments as their primary residences as determined by the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities. Affiliated leases are granted for a period of no more than one year and are renewable at the discretion of the University.

Postdoctoral officers are eligible to remain in University housing for a limited period, which is currently three years; visiting scholars/scientists are limited to one year of residency. In the event that a postdoctoral officer or a visiting scholar/scientist receives an appointment to another housing-eligible position, a new application for housing must be submitted and will be considered with other competing applications. If they assume appointments that make them ineligible for housing, they are required to vacate their apartments.

Eligible officers holding appointments outside of the Medical Center, with the exception of those in a postdoctoral rank as described below, may apply for housing in the vicinity of the Morningside campus and in Nyack through the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities. They should bring a letter from their dean or vice president confirming that they hold a full-time, compensated appointment. Postdoctoral officers and visiting scholars/ scientists should submit requests for housing to their dean or vice president according to the procedures of their school. Eligible officers of instruction and research at the Medical Center can request a University housing application from the CUMC Office of Housing Services. They may apply for a University apartment at either the Medical Center or on Morningside Heights.

The Housing Priorities Committee, which is chaired by the Provost, determines the policies that govern the allocation of apartments in the vicinity of the Morningside campus and decides on the assignment of certain types of apartments, including those typically leased to senior faculty. The Committee includes deans, or their representatives, and senior administrative officers from both the Morningside campus and the Medical Center. The Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities and the CUMC Office of Housing Services manage the assignment of all other University apartments, following guidelines provided by the Housing Priorities Committee. Deans, vice presidents, department chairs, and directors may not promise faculty and other officers housing without the prior permission of the Provost.

In special circumstances, such as when affiliated tenants are on leave, they may sublet their apartments for a period of up to one year to other individuals who are eligible for University housing, subject to the approval of the Residential and Commercial Operations Department if the tenant resides in a Morningside apartment or with the approval of the CUMC Office of Housing Services if the tenant’s apartment is located in a residential property at the Medical Center. While tenants may look for potential subtenants on their own, they should not make any commitments without first consulting with the appropriate office. An application for permission to sublet must be completed by the tenant and proposed subtenant and must be approved by the appropriate office before the sublet can take effect.

Last Revised May 2013



The University maintains several parking facilities and leases additional spaces in other lots for the use of its faculty and other officers. Certain lots at the Medical Center also accommodate students enrolled on that campus. Some of the University’s parking facilities are dedicated to commuters living outside of Manhattan. Others may be used for long-term parking by eligible officers. City regulations do not permit overnight parking in garages and lots that are set aside exclusively for commuters.

The parking facilities for the Morningside campus are managed separately from those at the Medical Center. Parking assignments on the Morningside campus are made by the University Parking Committee, while the Parking Department of Columbia University Facilities administers the policies the Committee has established and manages the University’s parking facilities outside of the Medical Center. A separate Parking Committee defines the parking policies at the Medical Center and addresses problems arising from them. Parking assignments and the management of the Medical Center facilities are handled by the CUMC Parking Office.

Since demand for University parking greatly exceeds supply, eligibility for both 24-hour and commuter parking is limited. The policies governing access to parking on the Morningside campus are posted on the web at A statement on Medical Center parking is available at No one who does not meet the requirements stated in those documents may receive parking; no one who ceases to meet them after being authorized to park may retain those privileges. Both parking offices will assist individuals who are not eligible for University parking in finding space in a commercial garage in the area surrounding their respective campuses.

Applications for parking should be sent to the appropriate parking office. Once they have been approved, parkers must submit to that office a copy of a valid vehicle registration issued to them, their spouses, or same-sex domestic partners, as defined by the University’s Office of Human Resources. Thereafter, each office asks annually for updated proof of registration to ensure that individuals who have been assigned spaces remain eligible for parking.

Parkers are charged a monthly fee that is determined by whether they have 24-hour or commuting privileges and by the lot they are using. Payment is made through payroll deductions, except in the case of short-term assignments, where it is made in full prior to occupancy.

Last Revised November 2008


Retiree Benefits

Faculty, officers of research, and other officers who retire from Columbia continue to enjoy a wide range of University privileges and benefits. Their privileges, including those of an academic nature, are described in Chapters III and IV of this Handbook (see the sections on “Termination” in each chapter). Their rights to participate in the University’s benefits programs, to reside in its apartments, and to use its parking facilities are summarized below.


Qualified retired officers may continue to obtain medical coverage for themselves and family members through the University. To participate in the medical plan for retirees, officers must be at least 55 years at the time of retirement and must have completed at least 10 years of full-time service after age 45. In addition, they must have actively worked at the University for at least 12 continuous months prior to retirement. This restriction does not apply in the following situations:

  • a faculty member has taken a terminal sabbatical leave;
  • an officer has signed a retirement agreement that provides for a terminal leave, with or without salary; and
  • an officer has been placed on a medical leave, with or without salary, during the final year of appointment.

Eligible officers must enroll in the retiree medical plan within five years of retirement and demonstrate that they were covered by another medical plan during the period between retirement and when they sign up. Those who do not meet these requirements forfeit their rights to the benefit. Spouses and dependents of an officer at the time of retirement may be added to the retired officer’s medical plan at a later date. However, if an officer marries or acquires new dependents after retirement, the spouse and dependents cannot be covered by the retiree medical plan.

Retired officers may also continue to participate in the University’s dental plan, maintain their long-term care and life insurance, and obtain limited tuition benefits for themselves, their spouses or same-sex domestic partners, and eligible children according to the eligibility requirements of the individual plans.

The University’s retiree benefits plans differ in their scope and provisions from those of active officers. Retired officers may obtain a summary of the plans from Retirement Benefits in Brief, which the Office of Human Resources publishes each year. The publication may also be found through the web site

Officers who intend to retire should plan for the conversion of their benefits in advance of their actual retirement in order to avoid a gap in coverage. If they will be 65 or older at retirement, they must enroll in Medicare within a period that begins three months prior to retirement and ends four months after. In addition, they should contact a counselor in the Office of Human Resources at least three months prior to retirement to arrange for their transfer from the University’s benefits plans for active officers to those for retired officers. The counselors in Human Resources can also provide information on how to arrange for distributions from their pension accumulations and on working with the Social Security Administration to obtain Social Security and Medicare.


By reason of their affiliation, certain faculty and other officers living in a University apartment at the time of retirement may be eligible to remain in their apartments, depending on when they signed their leases and retired, their former tenure status, how long they held full-time appointments, and how long they have resided in University housing. In all instances, their University apartment must be their primary residence, as determined by the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities, or they will be required to vacate their apartment.

As a general rule, full-time professorial-rank faculty, including those with modifiers in their titles, may remain in their apartments for a maximum period of three years after retirement. All other tenants are given a reasonable period of time within which to vacate their apartments after they retire. The three years of post-retirement eligibility for full-time professorial-rank faculty who have signed phased retirement agreements commences from the date they fully retire.

The University makes exceptions to these policies for three groups of retirees whose eligibility for housing are determined by prior housing policies as described below:

  1. Retirees who signed their initial leases before July 1, 1984 are permitted to remain in the apartments in which they reside after retirement as long as those apartments remain their primary residence.
  2. Retirees who signed leases with effective dates between July 1, 1984 and June 30, 1989 may remain in the apartments in which they reside so long as those apartments are their primary residence if they meet one of the following two conditions:
    • they held full-time appointments as tenured members of the faculty prior to retirement; or
    • at their retirement, they had completed at least 15 years of full-time continuous service in another capacity within the Columbia Corporation and had resided in a University apartment for at least 15 continuous years.
  3. Retirees who signed leases with effective dates between July 1, 1989 and June 30, 2009 may remain in the apartments in which they reside at the time of retirement for a minimum of three additional years, or longer as described below, if the apartments are their primary residence and they meet one of the following two requirements:
    • they are appointed as full-time members of the faculty, with tenure, by June 30, 2009; or
    • by June 30, 2009
      1. have completed at least 15 years of full-time continuous service within the Columbia Corporation in a capacity other than as a tenured member of the faculty; and
      2. have resided for at least 15 continuous years in a University apartment.

      Periods as a student or postdoctoral officer of research do not count toward either of the 15-year requirements.

The University can require tenants in the third category to move into smaller University apartments at any point after retirement. Those who agree to move when asked may reside in their new units throughout their lifetimes provided that those apartments remain their primary residence. Those who refuse to accept the smaller units they are offered will not be eligible to remain in University housing for more than three years after retirement, or for those who are already three years beyond retirement, a reasonable period after they decline to transfer. Tenants who meet one of the two requirements described above and who are not offered smaller units may remain in their existing apartments as long as those units are their primary residence.

While the University seeks to accommodate the desires of retirees who are asked to transfer, the supply of housing at the time of the request will determine the location and size of any new apartment they may be offered. Qualified tenants who already occupy small units, as determined by the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities, will be considered to have met the transfer requirement.

Any tenants, regardless of the effective date of their leases, who retire on or after July 1, 2009 and subsequently accept full-time employment outside of the Columbia Corporation forfeit all rights to remain in University housing. They will be given a reasonable period of time to vacate their apartments.

These policies also apply to the surviving spouses and qualified same-sex domestic partners of retirees and of officers who die prior to retirement. The housing privileges of those individuals are determined by the eligibility of the affiliated tenant of record at the date of retirement or death. As with other tenants, surviving spouses and qualified same-sex domestic partners must occupy their apartments as their primary place of residence, as determined by the Residential and Commercial Operations Department of Columbia University Facilities, or they will be required to vacate.


At the discretion of the University, retired faculty and officers of research may continue to park their cars in a University garage or lot if they had 24-hour parking prior to retirement. Those who had commuting privileges ordinarily may park in a University facility only on the days on which they are teaching.

Last Revised October 2011
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