First, we want to acknowledge that these are tremendously stressful times for SIPA students and their loved ones around the world. But we are doing everything possible to ensure that it is a great year to be a SIPA student. Many faculty have modified their courses to address the critical issues of the day, including COVID-19 and racial justice. SIPA will continue its robust co-curricular programming on issues from current economic crises and international security confrontations to national politics and green energy, to name just a few. As Dean Merit E. Janow has said, “Despite the uncertainties and the precautions we all must undertake, we will have opportunities to study, learn and engage with the world and each other. Our mission and our work have never been more important.”

To help you as the Fall semester gets underway, we present the following Q&As, drawn from questions submitted by SIPASA leaders and other students, as well as staff suggestions. We particularly appreciate the contributions of SIPASA Academic Representatives Steven Lazickas and Etizaz Shah.

We will update the Q&A, whenever needed. If you have questions, please write


Q: Is SIPA operating on the three-semester schedule described by President Bollinger?

No. SIPA will offer its full (standard) curriculum in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, allowing students to complete their coursework in the usual timeframe. SIPA will not utilize the Summer semester for coursework for its four-semester programs (MIA, MPA, MPA-DP). Students in the MPA in Economic Policy Management should contact their Program staff for details about Summer 2021. There are no changes to SIPA’s Fall calendar, which will begin on September 8th. Spring semester, however, will start one week earlier than usual, on January 11th, and end on April 26th.

Q: When is Commencement 2021?

Commencement 2021 will take place during the week of April 26. Once the University determines the date and time of SIPA’s graduation, we will share that information with you.



UPDATED Q: What will classes look like for Fall 2020?

SIPA will offer a total of 245 courses this Fall (including courses with multiple sections) – equivalent to the number and scope of courses offered in Fall 2019. All courses will be taught online for the entire semester. Nearly 25% of courses will be taught in Hybrid mode, which means professors will use SIPA HyFlex classroom to teach students simultaneously online and in-person. Courses are identified in SIPA Google Doc (here) as either ‘Online Only’ or ‘Hybrid’.

Two underlying commitments guided the decision to offer both Online and Hybrid courses: First, SIPA is committed to provide options that conform with public health regulations and allow students to choose the educational mode that best suits their individual circumstances. Second, SIPA is committed to ensure that, regardless of whether students take courses Online or Hybrid, their educational experience is of similarly high quality.

UPDATED Q: What has SIPA done to prepare for Online and Hybrid teaching?

SIPA faculty worked hard over the summer to transform their courses for online instruction. Their redesigned courses will utilize best practices, including interactive tools to facilitate engagement, out-of-class group work that allows students to work together at a time of their choosing, and asynchronous (recorded) materials that students may view when convenient. Because students will take classes from around the world, nearly all courses will be recorded and posted on CourseWorks. Only about a dozen out of 245 courses will not be recorded, and these faculty are providing accommodations for students who might find it difficult to attend every session. The SIPA Bulletin and SIPA Google Doc identify courses that will not be recorded and other useful information, and those faculty list accommodations in their respective syllabi.

Q: What will “Hybrid” classes look like?

Subject to public health restrictions, SIPA will offer about 25% of courses in ‘Hybrid’ mode. Faculty will simultaneously teach online and in-person students from a SIPA classroom. All classrooms have been upgraded with cameras and microphones to facilitate engagement of in-person and online participants. Large monitors have been added to nearly all classrooms to make it easier for online and in-person participants to interact with one another. Students in a Hybrid classroom will be able to see online students – via their own laptop and, in most classrooms, via the new monitors. Special microphones in classrooms will allow in-person students to be heard by those online, without using laptop microphones. A camera in the back of the classroom will provide several views of the classroom, including the professor at the podium or the chalkboard at the front of the room. In-person and online students will see all content shared by the professor.

Q: How many sessions of a Hybrid course will be taught in-person?

Although we expect that most faculty who teach Hybrid courses will teach all sessions in-person in a classroom, University and SIPA guidelines allow them to teach up to 70% of sessions online and 30% in-person. Course syllabi provide details if faculty do not plan to teach all sessions of their Hybrid course from the classroom.

UPDATED Q: How will professors manage a Hybrid environment in which students potentially rotate in and out of the classroom, and how will decisions be made about who can participate in-person, and when? How does SIPA plan to ensure these decisions are equitable and consistently applied?

Although course enrollment caps are the same as in previous years, the in-person seating capacity of all classrooms has been reduced in order to comply with NY State and Columbia University physical distancing policies, which require 6-foot spacing and result in utilization of about 25 – 30% of total classroom capacity. In-person seating capacity of each course is listed here. Because only about 25% of courses will be offered on-campus in Hybrid mode, SIPA has moved nearly all courses into larger classrooms than normal, allowing more students to attend in-person – while of course adhering to public health guidelines.

SIPA has strongly advised professors not to start the in-person portion of classes until after add-drop (i.e., until the third week), which will allow professors to identify which students wish to attend in-person and, if in-person demand exceeds room capacity, plan a system for rotating attendance. If the professor needs to ration seats, it will be done equitably – in other words, ensuring that each student attends the same number of classes (or as close to equal as possible).  If a professor wishes to make special adjustments, they may do so, but the underlying principle is to distribute in-person seats equitably among students.

NEW Q: What resources have professors been provided to adapt their classes to an Online or Hybrid format, beyond IT and audio/visual adjustments?

The Dean’s office informed all teaching faculty in June that they were expected to redesign their courses for remote teaching. Those who were not familiar with Zoom were required to attend a training on Zoom/CourseWorks, and all faculty were required to attend two workshops by Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) on transforming courses for remote teaching. Faculty also were provided extensive asynchronous resources on online pedagogy, including materials on fostering student engagement, creation of video recordings, virtual blackboards, and many other topics. Faculty also were required to submit a remote teaching plan that identified adjustments they were making to their course, including the possible introduction of asynchronous materials and interactive elements; adjustments of office hours; and changes in assignments, exams, and the grading rubric. Faculty teaching Hybrid courses were provided one-on-one orientations for the use of HyFlex technology and received tips from professors who experimented with the equipment prior to the beginning of the semester.

NEW Q: What accommodations will be made for students who are attending remotely from areas with spotty or limited internet access?  What happens if students’ internet service is disrupted in the middle of an exam or presentation?

Students are encouraged to arrange backup internet, such as hotspots, if available and affordable. But one reason that SIPA is providing recordings of nearly all courses is to ensure students whose internet connections are disrupted are able to access classes when connectivity is restored. As is always the case, SIPA expects faculty to make common sense accommodations for circumstances that interrupt students’ efforts to complete course requirements. Please inform your faculty members as soon as possible about any such interruption.

NEW Q: How will professors accommodate teaching students in different time-zones? Are professors required to implement asynchronous instruction methods? What is expected of international students participating in courses from time-zones that place classes at odd and difficult hours?

First, SIPA shifted some high-demand courses to either 9:00 am or 6:10 pm, which are times that are generally more accessible outside of NYC. But we obviously can only do that with a limited number of classes. Second, all courses (except about a dozen) will be recorded and posted in CourseWorks, allowing students to access the course when it is most convenient. Third, many, if not most faculty introduced elements in their courses to accommodate students in diverse time zones. Some professors, for example, reduced or even eliminated the portion of grade determined by participation. Others will base the participation portion of the grade on specific activities that are assigned in advance, so students in diverse time zones will know exactly when they must participate. Some faculty designed study or working groups to take into consideration the time zones of students. Most faculty who are offering several sections of the same course scheduled their sections at diverse times, so students can select the one that is best for their circumstances. Finally, those faculty who still expect students to participate in class clearly stipulate that in their syllabi, so students can decide whether to take that course or another.

Finally, interaction is a crucial part of learning – particularly in graduate school. There is an underlying expectation that students will attend and participate to the greatest extent possible. But because these are difficult and challenging times, SIPA also expects professors to be more flexible than usual. 

NEW Q: Will students be required to request asynchronous education options? Or will professors be required to include asynchronous elements?

All courses, except for about a dozen, will be recorded and posted in CourseWorks.  Students enrolled in the course automatically have access to the recordings. Students are still expected, however, to attend and to participate to the greatest extent possible. Course syllabi contain information about expectations for participation. Professors are not required to include additional asynchronous elements, although many will do so.

NEW Q: How can students benefit from the Columbia/SIPA experience online that would not have been possible in-person?

First, a bit of context. SIPA did not choose to offer all courses Online. The global COVID-19 pandemic made that necessary. SIPA and Columbia University wish to return to in-person education as soon as it is safe to do so. New York City currently does not allow gatherings of more than 50 people, and even then, only with physical distancing. After accounting for physical distancing requirements, only one SIPA classroom accommodates more than 20 students – so SIPA can accommodate only a limited number of in-person students. Conversely, many SIPA students do not want to return to campus – or are not able to do so, due to a wide range of constraints.  Given this, offering all courses Online, while allowing faculty to teach Hybrid, is the optimal approach.

Now, to the question … are there benefits to Online that are not possible in-person? To begin with the obvious, the Online option makes it possible for students who are unable to attend in-person to continue their education. In addition, students can connect with their peers in their homes around the world. Faculty can bring outstanding guests who otherwise might not be able to travel to New York City for in-person instruction.

In pedagogical terms … the vast majority of SIPA faculty have re-designed their courses to make them more interactive. Some will use breakout rooms to allow students to work on problems then present the results, during class. Others are incorporating asynchronous elements that will allow students to prepare before class and that allow the professor to focus more on live interaction during the synchronous portion.

NEW Q: With class Zoom links provided through CourseWorks/Canvas, how will students access classes they’re interested in taking but not registered for during the “shopping period” before the add/drop date?

The "shopping period" (i.e., the first two weeks of the semester) for SIPA courses in Fall 2020 will take place online. CourseWorks/Canvas sites will be accessible to anyone with a Columbia UNI and password, so students will be able to access the Zoom class meeting links. (With approval of the Office of Academic Affairs, faculty may opt out of online shopping.) A full list of Fall courses, including links to CourseWorks sites and other useful information is located here. At the end of the shopping period, all CourseWorks settings will be adjusted so that only enrolled students will be able to access a CourseWorks site. After the shopping period ends, students who are not registered for a course should not use the Zoom link made available during the shopping period; doing so is an intrusion on a classroom and is not acceptable.

NEW Q: Will there be spaces in IAB for students to attend online classes?

The Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) has made IAB 403 available as a ‘study hall’ for students who want to attend online classes or do other work. The room, which accommodates 22 students with physical distancing, is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm. If demand exceeds that capacity, OAA will open another study hall, assuming rooms are available. Because there could be students attending multiple classes in the same room, we strongly recommend using noise-blocking headphones, if affordable.

UPDATED Q: If a student – including an international student – begins coursework online, may the student join Hybrid courses in person later in the semester?

Students may switch from Online to Hybrid, if seats are available and if the professor approves. If a course is already over room limit, and the professor already has established a rotation, it is unlikely that a professor would add an additional Hybrid student, unless an existing Hybrid student dropped out.

If an international student has informed SIPA that they plan to enroll in Hybrid course(s), but has been delayed entering the United States, SIPA will exercise reasonable judgement in allowing that student to matriculate into Hybrid course(s) after the start of the semester (depending on the student’s situation, this could mean up to six weeks or perhaps longer after the beginning of the semester). Advising Deans in the Office of Student Affairs will consult with individual students to decide whether late entry will be allowed, subject to communication with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). As noted above, the professor makes the final decision about adding an additional Hybrid student to a class.

If students are not able to enter the US in the Fall but have started and continued all coursework online, they will be able to complete all courses remotely, and will be able to start Spring semester in Hybrid course(s), assuming the University continues Hybrid.


NEW Q: Can students switch between taking a class via Hybrid mode and taking it Online Only?

Subject to special concerns of individual professors, students may switch from Hybrid to Online Only. But remember that Hybrid seats are limited, so if you are not committed to attending in-person, please consider letting another student have the seat from the beginning. But if something occurs in your life that makes it impossible for you to continue in-person, we completely understand.

NEW Q: Can classes that begin as Online Only become Hybrid later in the semester? 

If the faculty member wishes to switch a class from Online Only to Hybrid, she or he may do so, if an appropriate classroom is available. Students attending Online Only will still be able to do so.

NEW Q: Will faculty hold office hours for Online Only and Hybrid students?

All faculty will hold virtual office hours and will post times in their syllabi. Many professors teaching Hybrid courses will also offer in-person office hours. Many faculty will offer additional office hours or tutorials designed to accommodate online students studying in time zones distant from NYC. Some faculty teaching Online Only will offer to meet students on-campus (more information will be provided in individual course syllabi). As is always the case, if you have a problem with the scheduled office hours, please ask your professor whether they could arrange an alternative time.

NEW Q: How will group work be affected by these changes? Will further resources, such as sanitized group work rooms or premium versions of apps like Slack or Zoom Pro be provided to students?

After the second week of classes, the Office of Academic Affairs will provide ‘group study classrooms’ – via the classroom reservation form. The instructor, TA, or a single student representative should request a classroom on behalf of the students in the course who need a group study space. Please coordinate, so there is only one request per group.  As is the case with other rooms on campus, we request students to clean before and after use. University Facilities has increased its cleaning of public spaces, but it does not have the resources to follow-up after room usage.

CUIT supports Ambi social networking platform, which is designed for students and integrates with Canvas. Google Meet is available to students through LionMail.  Although SIPA has provided all faculty, TAs, and Readers with Zoom Pro accounts, it is not providing Zoom Pro or premium Slack at this time to students. SIPA has provided STATA licenses to all students enrolled in Quant I and other quantitative courses that require STATA.



Q: How will Columbia University make certain that the campus is as safe as possible?

As described in detail on the University’s COVID-19 website, Columbia is conducting comprehensive steps to mitigate risk: implementing best-practice adjustments to buildings and common spaces; establishing rigorous individual-level requirements; and fostering actions to build a culture of mutual care and compliance. These include provisions for COVID testing, face coverings, daily symptom self-tests, and much more.

NEW Q: What parts of the SIPA experience will be available online and what parts will be available in-person?

Student Affairs (OSA) and Career Services (OCS) are providing enhanced services online. All students will receive email and CampusGroup messages about how to access these offices (e.g., virtual "walk-in" hours), with similar information posted on the SIPA web site and on suite doors in the International Affairs Building. Both OSA and OCS will have a staff member on-site during regular office hours for emergencies and urgent matters. And both offices will continually assess the best way to provide services, as conditions evolve.

The preferred method of access for Human Resources and the Business Office will be online, although they will be available in-person by appointment.

All Financial Aid services will continue to be available via telephone or online. As was the case pre-pandemic, financial counseling will not be provided in-person.

Concentrations and Specializations will offer all customary services and programming online. Most will also be available in-person by office hours or appointment, although some will be entirely virtual. Please consult the appropriate website or other resources for details.

Publique Cafe will be open beginning September 8 and provide a limited, grab-and-go menu. There will be no seating and only limited high-top tables.  Seating also has been removed from other public spaces in IAB, in order to discourage congregating in public spaces.

SIPA-IT, including the Computer Lab and printing services, will be available on-site. SIPA-IT is providing 8 computer stations on 6th floor and 16 in 510A Lab.  The SIPA-IT lab will be open for IT support: Monday – Friday at 8:30am – 8:30pm and Saturday at 10am – 5:30pm.

NEW Q: Will students be able to access Lehman Library and other libraries?

Beginning August 31, libraries are open by reservation for two hours at a time (register here). Lehman Library will have 100 -110 spaces. They will provide sanitizing wipes for students to clean their reserved seat before/after use. All other CU libraries also are accessible (except the Law School). SIPA students may reserve seats in the Business School Library from Friday through Sunday (but not Monday through Thursday). SIPA students enrolled in a joint degree with the Business School are considered Business School students for this purpose.

NEW Q: Are libraries planning to offer a digital version of course reserves?

As always, the Lehman Library will provide electronic reserves, which consist of linking to licensed electronic content (e-journal articles, ebooks, and streaming media), and embedding those links into Canvas pages for specific courses. Whenever possible, the Library will purchase licenses to multi-user ebooks to which it does not currently have access.



UPDATED Q: Will SIPA continue Pass/Fail (used in Spring 2020) or resume letter grades in Fall 2020?

Columbia University returned to letter grades during Summer 2020, and letter grades will be continued in Fall 2020.

NEW Q: How will absences be counted during the Fall semester, with COVID-19 infections still a considerable risk around the world?

Professors determine their own policies for absences from individual courses. Most faculty accept a couple of excused absences, but students should request clarification, if not provided in the syllabus. Due to COVID, many professors are adjusting their expectations, due to the possibility of interruptions due to illness or interruption of virtual attendance. As a general accommodation, SIPA is recording almost all classes to allow asynchronous viewing. 

If students find that they must miss several classes, we strongly recommend that they consult both their professors and their Advising Dean in the Office of Student Affairs. If an underlying problem, such as a COVID infection, is seriously disrupting their ability to study, they should make clear plans to adjust for missed classes and assignments. In serious circumstances, they may consider a Leave of Absence.

Students who are unable to complete an exam due to circumstances beyond their control should inform the professor in advance, if possible, or at least as soon as the exam is completed. Students are required to provide documentation of the reason for missing the exam to allow the professor to determine what type of accommodation is appropriate. Students also are encouraged to inform the Office of Student Affairs about the circumstances that prevented them from completing a course.

NEW Q: Does SIPA’s excused absence policy apply to sick family members (such as children) as well?  What accommodations, if any, will be made for students who are parents if their children become ill (with COVID-19 or another sickness)?

Students should promptly inform both their faculty and the Office of Student Affairs if parenting or other family responsibilities make it impossible for them to complete their coursework. SIPA will be as reasonable as possible during these challenging times in granting accommodations for family and illness-related issues. Students with a parenting related issue should contact Assistant Dean Samantha Shapses-Wertheim.

NEW Q: How will students’ privacy and security be respected and guaranteed when taking courses via online or Hybrid modes? How will exams be proctored? Will proctoring software be used?

SIPA-IT and CUIT continue to pursue privacy and security as one of their highest priorities. Class video recordings are available only to students who have log-ins to each specific CourseWorks site, and students accessing these sites are required to acknowledge that videos will only be used for the purposes of that specific course and will not be copied or distributed to others. Academic integrity is the cornerstone of our intellectual community. In service to this core principle, three proctoring software have been vetted by CUIT and SIPA-IT and determined by the University to meet Columbia’s security and privacy requirements. Students may be required to take an exam through Courseworks utilizing Proctorio, depending on the course assessment and the professor’s determination of how best to ensure exam security. 

NEW Q: How do students cross-register, particularly in Law School or Business School classes?

As has always been the case, the best resource is the SIPA cross-registration page. There are links to other schools’ cross-registration pages. The Business School (CBS) and Law have distinct processes with strictly enforced deadlines.

Law School: Students must submit the Law School cross-registration form to the Law School Registrar. The form is located on the Law School registration site. The application must be accompanied by the instructor’s approval to register.  The Law School informs students if they are accepted to a course, and those approved are registered directly by the Law School.

Business School: SIPA students have two opportunities to apply to enroll in Business School courses. There is priority application time period for SIPA students only, followed by an open application period. There is a pre-selected list of courses open to cross-registrants (more information here). Students apply on the site during the CBS cross-registration period for a seat in one of the “open” courses. Students are notified directly by CBS regarding their registration requests. Those who are approved for a course are registered directly by CBS

NEW Q: If a student has a short overlap (up to 15 minutes) between two courses, is it possible to override the registration block for the overlapping classes?

OSA will override the conflict, as long as both faculty members approve the student’s registration in the conflicting courses. OSA requires students to submit an email from the faculty members explicitly noting that they are aware of the overlap and approve the registration.

NEW Q: How do students declare their Specializations? Does it have to be through Stellic? Do students have to reach out to a specific administrator to do this?

Students may update/declare their Concentration or Specialization using the Concentration and Specialization declaration form located on Campus Groups. Students can change their Concentration or Specialization when the form opens at the beginning of each semester and remains opens until the Wednesday of the last week of add/drop. Students may submit only one Concentration or Specialization request form per semester. Students cannot change their Concentration or Specialization via Stellic.

NEW Q: What are the updates on Columbia-related travel, including Capstones?

Due to on-going health risks related to COVID-19 the University has suspended all student travel (more details and updates here). In anticipation of the possibility that the suspension will continue, all Capstone projects for the Spring 2021 semester have been designed to be completed either remotely or, should future circumstances permit, with travel.  The Office of Academic Affairs will monitor travel restrictions and University policy at the end of the fall semester to determine whether travel will be feasible for spring Capstone projects and will make an announcement at that time.  As has always been the case, no student is required to travel for the fulfillment of the Capstone requirement.

NEW Q: To fulfill the 9-credit requirement for the Management Specialization, do I have to choose from the same category of Management courses? For example, do I have to choose only from courses included in Leadership and Strategy Decision to fulfill the 9 credits requirement for the Specialization? Or may I choose from more than one different category?

The Management Specialization site states, “Students may choose any three (3) courses from the list below, regardless of their category”.  As far as we are aware, all Specializations and Concentrations provide detailed guidance about course requirements.

Q: Some classes are offered annually, such as Methods FOR Development in the Economic and Political Development Concentration. Is there a possibility classes such as this will be offered more frequently to accommodate students taking a leave of absence?

SIPA will monitor the number of students taking leaves in the Fall and returning in the Spring in order to determine whether special adjustments need to be made in the curriculum.

NEW Q: Last year, Columbia Business School’s MBA was approved as a certified STEM program, which allows graduates up to three years of OPT (OPTIONAL Practical Training) instead of the one year available to graduates of the MIA, MPA, Executive MPA, MPA in Development Practice and MPA in Economic Policy Management. Is there anything in the works to get STEM eligibility for these SIPA degrees?

Columbia University will only classify degrees as STEM-eligible, not concentrations or specializations. SIPA is in the process of registering the MPA in Economic Policy Management as a degree.  When that is concluded, we will apply for STEM eligibility for it.  Although some SIPA concentrations might qualify for STEM eligibility, we cannot register them, unless we register them first with the New York State Department of Education as separate degrees. The degree registration process and STEM approval process together take about two years. The SIPA administration periodically considers the creation of new degree programs, including the elevation of concentrations to degrees, but at this time, SIPA is not planning to register any concentrations as separate degrees.


STUDENT ASSISTANTSHIPS: TA’S, Readers, Program Assistants, Student Assistants, Departmental Research Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Graduate Research Fellows, and Tutors

UPDATED Q: Will it be possible to fulfill the responsibilities of any of these assistantships fully online?

All students appointed in any of these categories may fulfill their responsibilities remotely or on-campus. They should inform their supervisor of their choice as soon as possible, in order to make appropriate adjustments in tutorials, recitations or other activities. Students who wish to perform their work on-campus must follow Columbia University’s protocols for returning to campus.

Questions regarding appointment and payment procedures should be sent to International students planning to work remotely outside of the US should contact SIPA Human Resources as soon as possible. Questions regarding work arrangements (e.g. recitations, tutorials, office hours, etc.) should be directed to the student's supervisor. All other questions can be sent to



Q: What advice do you have for students relocating to NYC? Particularly those from outside of the US or from a state on the mandatory quarantine list?

Please consult New York State’s travel advisory protocols. The University’s COVID-19 website has extensive information about public health protocols, including quarantine procedures. If you choose to come to New York, you can begin classes online while you complete quarantine. It can be challenging to relocate, and the pandemic is certainly complicating matters further. Your peers in the Class of 2022 Facebook group may have suggestions. You can also schedule a call with the Office of Student Affairs to discuss any concerns.



Q: May students request a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or attend SIPA part-time?

SIPA will maintain its long-standing policy of requiring full-time enrollment (at least 12 points) for all programs, except the Executive MPA.

Q: What is the process for continuing students to secure a Leave of Absence?

The process for securing Leaves of Absence (which are not available for incoming new students) is straightforward and has not changed due to COVID-19. There are no penalties. Students have until the end of add/drop in the Fall to request a leave. In addition, students may take leaves for emergency situations until the last day of classes. But, if you are registered in the Fall, you will want to drop before the end of add/drop in order to recoup all tuition and fees; after add/drop, you will lose all fees, and tuition is adjusted at 10% per week (details here). There are no charges if you do not register for the Fall term. You may take a leave for a semester or a year (or for one semester and then extend for one additional semester). If you've already decided on LOA for the Fall, please fill out the LOA Request.  International students who have questions regarding how a leave might affect their visa status or CPT or OPT eligibility should consult the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).



UPDATED Q: What can students on visas such as the F-1 visa expect if they take Online Only? Does SIPA have any control over this process?

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) has advised that continuing international students from Spring 2020 may remain in the US to study, regardless of whether their course of study is Hybrid or Online Only. ISSO also advises that incoming (new) international students are eligible for a student visa if they plan to attend a Hybrid program – for SIPA, that is at least one 3-point Hybrid course. In addition, continuing international students who wish to return to the US may be asked to provide verification that they plan to attend a Hybrid program. In order to assist new and continuing students applying for a visa, the Office of Student Affairs will provide a letter verifying that their program offers Hybrid courses. Students may request such a letter through SIPA will advise new international students who wish to seek a student visa how to secure enrollment in an appropriate Hybrid course. Because policies may change (due to factors beyond SIPA’s control), international students should verify current visa requirements by consulting with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Columbia’s International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).

Q: What happens to new international students enrolled in a Hybrid option if the University moves fully online?

ISSO advises that students on a visa will be allowed to remain in the US to study, even if the University moves to Online Only, due to public health requirements or other considerations.


NEW Q: What accommodations will be afforded to students in countries with travel bans? 

Students who begin the semester online and are delayed entering the US due to travel bans or other reasons will be able to continue enrollment online.  We anticipate that they will be allowed to enter the US later in the semester, but they should keep their Advising Deans and ISSO informed.

UPDATED Q:  Will international students on visas be able to secure Curricular Practical Training (CPT) eligibility for internships during Summer 2021?

Beginning with students matriculating for the first time in Fall 2020, SIPA requires all students in the MIA and two-year MPA to fulfill their internship requirement in the first summer after completing two semesters (in this particular example, in summer 2021). In addition to these programs, the MPA in Development Practice (MPA-DP) requires students to complete a placement during the summer. Due to the COVID emergency, new international students who are enrolled full-time Online in Fall 2020 in these programs (MIA, two-year MPA and MPA-DP) will be eligible for CPT in summer 2021, as long as they are enrolled in-person in at least one 3-point Hybrid course in Spring 2021. Students who are unable to enter the US at the beginning of the Spring semester should contact their Advising Dean about the deadline for their joining their course in-person; in all cases, students must join the in-person portion of their Hybrid course no later than April 1.

Students enrolled in SIPA programs that do not require an internship or summer placement must fulfill the US immigration requirement of completion of two full-time semesters in F-1 status before they are eligible for CPT. To qualify for full-time enrollment, they must arrive in the United States no later than 30 days after program start date (September 8 for Fall 2020).

Revised September 9, 2020

Q: Due to the ICE/SEVP announcement on changes for Fall 2020, do international students need to reapply for an I-20 certificate? If an international student takes all Fall 2020 courses from outside of the United States, will she/he need an updated I-20 certificate and/or student visa to travel to the US in Spring 2021?

Because policies are continually changing, we strongly advise that international students verify the latest requirements by consulting with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Columbia’s International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).



NEW Q: What is the plan for Spring 2021?

Columbia University has yet to decide about the mode(s) of instruction for Spring 2021. SIPA is preparing for the possibility of on-campus courses or the continuation of a mix of Online and Hybrid courses in Spring 2021.  SIPA and the University are aware that students need to know about instructional plans as soon as possible and will attempt to announce plans as soon as possible.