Academic Year 2020-2021

The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health will be open for the 2020-2021 academic year. We remain committed to providing a rigorous and cutting-edge academic and public health practice experience that will prepare all of our students for the complex challenges that confront us today and in the future. The welfare of our students, faculty, and staff have been at the center of those decisions, along with consideration of the health of our Washington Heights neighbors. Throughout this public health crisis, we have been guided by science and evidence as we have developed programming and policies.
Each degree program is considering the size and needs of their cohorts and therefore specifics might vary. Our faculty will be prepared to deliver a high quality and engaging education online, utilizing best practices that foster engagement and learning.


The below Spring 2021 plans pertain to the Mailman School only and are pending any University-level decisions that might override them. Please visit this site frequently for updates. The full announcement can be found here.

A school-wide Educational Strategy Planning Team, with contributors from all Departments, developed this plan. It was informed by input from students and faculty across the school, a commitment to good pedagogical practice, a focus on equity, and an awareness of the constraints of teaching while maintaining social distance and wearing masks. Here are the key plans at this time:

  1. To ensure that students can successfully make progress toward degree completion from anywhere in the world, nearly all classes will be offered online, but with increased opportunities for in person breakout sessions or discussion groups.
  2. The School will make spaces available for small groups of students to gather in-person to watch or participate in synchronous or asynchronous class material.  
  3. Students will have access to quiet spaces for individual study.
  4. Spaces will also be allocated for individual participation in synchronous online classes—especially useful if other space at home or elsewhere is not optimal for remote learning.
  5. A few small, elective classes will be offered in-person.
  6. Details on securing the spaces named above will be forthcoming.
  7. For Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, students will have more flexibility in utilizing the Pass/Fail option for up to 9 cumulative credits during their degree program. More information will be forthcoming about this in the coming week.

COVID-19 work

Given the number of COVID-19 related research and service activities at the Mailman School and the Medical Center at Columbia, and our extensive partnerships with the city, state, and national public health leadership, there will be numerous opportunities for Columbia Mailman students to engage in learning about how public health responds to a pandemic through the COVID-19 response in New York City and beyond. Students are already engaged in phone-based contact tracing activities and dozens of other projects in conjunction with the Medical Center of which we are part. 


The Columbia University faculty and administration are working diligently to assist you. Please continue to check the Columbia Public Health website and read University emails for updates and relevant information during this unprecedented time.

In the meantime, the Office of Education is here to help! Visit us online for helpful information on who to contact when ( the Office of Education is also begin hosting virtual drop-in Office Hours).

Helpful offices and emails to save:

How do I find study space on campus?

Columbia Public Health students have available to them multiple options for finding individual study space suitable to their needs. Columbia University Libraries remain available to students for individual study space (use of tables, desk, chairs, and computers) for up to three hours per day in both the Health Sciences Library Knowledge Center (Hammer Lobby) and Lower Level 1 Room LL104. The Butler Library also remains available to CUIMC students. Students should be sure to follow all guidelines for using the space.

Public Health students may also utilize designated space in the Mailman School of Public Health Allan Rosenfield Building when library spaces may not fit their specific needs. Use cases to consider would be longer reservation times, spaces where speaking out loud (like participating in class) is permissible, additional privacy, and more. Interested students should send an email by 4:00 pm ET the day prior indicating: 

- Desired date
- Start time
-Reservation duration (ie 1 hr, 3 hours, etc.)
-Any equipment needs (Some rooms are equipped with laptop docs, extra monitors, printer access, etc.)
-Note: You can reserve a desk up to 1 week in advance
-Please visit our Student Desk Reservations page

Requests including the above mentioned details should be submitted to As a reminder, all visiting students must complete all six steps indicated in the Required Protocal for Returning to Campus. Failure to complete any step may result in a student being denied entry to campus buildings.

How will Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 courses be graded?

For Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, students will have more flexibility in utilizing the Pass/Fail option for up to 9 cumulative credits during their degree program. View information on the updated policy here.

Should a student opt to change a Spring 2021 course to pass/fail after the initial course registration, they should utilize a Registration Form and follow the usual change of grading option timeline as noted on the academic calendar. Under the amended policy for Academic Year 20201-2021, students do not need a department or advisor signature. The previously linked form only requires student and course information – no approval signature. Please remember to keep in mind the 9-credit, cumulative limit for a students degree program. Copmleted forms can be submitted to the Student Academic Records and Standards team at for processing. 

Can a student go above their cumulative credit cap?

To address students’ needs amidst the pandemic, we are making an exception to our credit cap policy for flat-rate MPH and MHA students scheduled to graduate either Spring 2021 or Fall 2021 (May or October degree conferral). Eligible students may elect to enroll in up to an additional 3-credits above their degree program’s cumulative cap without incurring additional costs.  Please note the per semester credit caps remain unchanged.  

All prerequisites and enrollment priorities apply to any requested courses. 

Applicable degree programs include: 

Degree Program  Cumulative credit max increased from → to  Per-semester credit maximum 
Full-time MPH (Including
Global Students) 
60 → 63

18  (21 for 6-month
Global students) 

Accelerated MPH  45 → 48 21
Dual MPH  42 → 45 21
Full-time MHA  60 → 63 18
Executive MHA/MPH  60 → 63 12

Students who believe they would benefit from enrolling in up to an additional 3 credits above the cumulative credit maximums of their programs will need to complete a registration form - with appropriate department approval – and submit to the Student Academic Records and Standards team at for processing. Requests must be received by of the end of Change of Program period, January 22, as noted in the academic calendar

Students with questions may contact the Student Academic Records and Standards team at

Is their a recording of Dean Fried's Town Hall?

What types of student health services are available to students?

Student Health on Haven is your primary resource for all your health care needs while you are a student at CUIMC. You can find extensive information for medical, mental, and your overall well-being needs at:

What is the status of Columbia Libraries?

Columbia Libraries is dedicated to providing students and faculty a safe and productive onsite library services.

Information for spring 2021 has been updated for the Hammer Health Sciences library. CUIMC students can also reserve space at Butler Library at the Morningside campus.

Is printing available on campus?

While most campus Computing Areas are currently closed some Pharos printers are available for use in student housing areas and on the first floor for the Hammer Health Science Center. Information for on-campus printing can be found here.

I am a new student, can I pick up my Columbia ID?

Students interested in acquiring their Columbia Public Health ID should contact the Office of Student Affairs and Additional pick-up opportunities in the lead-up to Spring 2021 will also be available. These plans will be communicated via email.

Are students allowed to travel?

The Columbia University Travel policy states that all University sponsored travel for students is currently suspended. Students are urged to postpone travel except for personal or family emergencies. If travel must happen, follow all NYS guidance

View the Student Health on Haven website for helpful information on the protocol and personal travel.

What safety precautions will be taken for anyone arriving to campus?

All members of the Columbia University Community will be asked to sign the Columbia University Health Compact before returning to campus. Please know that the University, the Medical Center and the School of Public Health have intensively modified all dimensions of our campus to support preventing infection from COVID-19. For those students who are on-campus, we are dedicated to providing the safest possible working environment, including the adoption of physical distancing and low population density requirements; mandatory ID scanning; enhanced custodial care of facilities; and regular PPE distribution, among other efforts.  For more information on the adoption and enforcement of the University’s COVID-19 monitoring protocols, please visit:

What do I have to know about the Columbia Compact? Are there any policies pertaining to the Compact?

All members of the Columbia University are required to review and sign the Compact before returning to campus.

The University is implementing a Student Accountability Plan for any Compact violations. Details can be found here.

I’m an international student and need guidance about my visa, OPT, or other issues related to my student status. Who should I contact?

The International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) remains available to advise and support our international student community. Please consult their ISSO COVID-19 Student FAQs or contact them by email at

What can students expect from online learning?

Our team of online learning experts are incorporating student feedback and working closely with faculty to create state-of-the-art online learning experiences that facilitate community building. In general, the courses will be a blend of interactive, live sessions, combined with asynchronous lectures and activities. This will optimize discussions with faculty and your classmates. We are excited about the opportunities that this will provide for our courses to acknowledge and embrace the diverse locations and communities in which our students reside.

Will in-person office hours with professors be available?

Professors will provide office hours similarly to how they have provided them in the past; either virtually or while exercising physical distancing guidelines depending on their course. It is important to remember that some faculty might be in a higher risk category and may be more inclined to meet with you via Zoom. This is also subject to social distancing guidelines set down by the state, city, and campus dictating how much personnel we can have on campus at a given time.

Will I still be able to do a practicum? Can I still get a global certificate?

We fully expect that our students will be able to continue to do Practica and all Certificates at Mailman are available at this time. Currently, the majority of our first-year students are conducting exciting and critically important Practica remotely on important public health concerns, including COVID-19 response projects.

A wide range of domestic and international organizations have wonderful opportunities for students to be involved with remote projects that include research, program evaluation, health education, policy analysis, and more.  Certificates that traditionally require international travel (Global Health; Public Health and Humanitarian Action) have adapted their requirements to include remote Practica.  

When travel restrictions are lifted we aim to return to supporting students’ on-site engagement in hundreds of sites around the globe.  Mailman’s Field Practice team stands ready to assist all students in locating a remote (and, in future, on-site) Practicum. 

What kind of community building opportunities will be offered?

Much of the programming we are offering and planning this semester are similar to programs and events offered throughout the fall semester: Student Life events, meeting your Deans, office hours, Public Health seminars and workshops; opportunities to meet our faculty and learn about the work they are doing...some events are school specific; others will be university-wide or campus-wide, thereby introducing you to the Mailman and larger Columbia community. Current students can check the weekly newsletter from the Office of Education for upcoming events, as well as the Mailman School Calendar and Engage.

What can you tell us about how Networking will look?

The Office of Careers Practice, in collaboration with Alumni Relations and the Mailman School and the Columbia Alumni Association more broadly, offer a new alumni-student mentoring platform/online community, “Columbia Mailman Connect”, which allows students to search for alumni in their fields of interest, geographic location, area of study, and many other variables, and to engage via mentoring and networking conversations. This is an exciting and significant expansion on our existing alumni networking resources.

Will opportunities for volunteer/work related to the pandemic or related to other current events within the field of public health for students in NYC be available and made known to students?

Yes! When the COVID19 crisis started in NYC, over 1600 students across the Columbia University Irving Medical Campus participated in remote, virtual volunteering opportunities not only in the City, but also State wide in connection with the Governor's office. The  Office of Careers & Professional Practice consistently shares opportunities through multiple channels.

In addition, the Office of University Life is inviting all students to help keep our community healthy during COVID-19 by becoming a student ambassador. Student ambassadors will receive specialized training about the Columbia Community Health Compact, COVID-19 prevention and bystander intervention methods, along with an opportunity to engage with campus experts. They will also participate in resource development, programs and peer-to-peer support and education, and our upcoming Keep Our Community Healthy marketing campaign. Interested students can complete this short form to share their interest in being an ambassador.

How will student organizations work?

Our student organizations will be active and offering a variety of virtual programming until social distancing guidelines allow our in-person, large events to resume. Many are currently planning events this summer and preparing for the fall. Incoming students will soon receive access to the student engagement portal, Engage, where all student-led events can be found. If you are interested in serving as an officer in a student organization or starting a new organization, please contact Christina Ferrari at

Should I sign a lease in NYC?

While moving to, or within, the New York metropolitan area is a decision that will need to be made independently, all students can expect to be able to fully engage in their coursework despite their physical location.

What if I need to defer/take a leave of absence?

New Students

Incoming students who have not yet matriculated may request to defer their admission by emailing to inform the Admissions Team of their decision. Requests to defer must be received by August 1. Students requesting deferrals will be notified as soon as possible after the request is made and will be evaluated on a rolling basis. Please note that deferrals are not guaranteed.  For students who defer, scholarships are not guaranteed but you can be reconsidered in your year of enrollment. 


Continuing students who need, to delay their degree programs should speak to the Office of Student Affairs regarding a leave of absence (LOA). Continuing students may request to take a LOA at any time prior to the end of the 2020 Fall semester Change of Program Period.

If a student were to defer, is their spot guaranteed for the next year? Is their scholarship guaranteed?

Students placement is guaranteed if they defer. However, scholarships cannot be guaranteed across deferrals as the budget constraints for that funding changes from year to year.

Can I appeal my financial aid offer in light of a change in circumstances from the pandemic?

We understand that recent circumstances have caused a variety of financial stressors for students and their families. Unfortunately, although we are exploring ways to increase financial aid, at the moment we don’t have enough aid to meet the financial need of all students.  If you have concerns or questions about your funding, please contact to schedule a meeting to discuss your current financial circumstances and discuss the resources or loan options that may be available to you.

Will students be required to maintain insurance through Columbia University?

Students enrolled with Columbia University at full-time are required to maintain health insurance. Students wishing to waive out of the university offered insurance plan can find information here.