Dean Rosen-Metsch Provides an Update for GS Students

August 14, 2020

Dear Students,

Following up on the message from President Bollinger, I am writing to provide more specific information for Columbia GS students. First, though, I would like to express my appreciation for the patience and support for one another that you have all exhibited during this uncertain and challenging time. Below are some additional details on what, if any, impact the new educational format will have for GS students.


We have heard from many students over the last weeks and months, including the important advocacy from our student councils and student leaders, about the financial difficulties GS students are facing. We know that the year ahead poses significant challenges for you and we have worked hard to take steps to be supportive of GS students at this moment, including increasing the GS financial aid budget for next academic year and adjusting certain fees. In addition to these changes, Columbia will absorb the tuition increase previously published; and with this change the effective rate for the 2020-2021 academic year is $1,896 per point, the same rate as the 2019-2020 academic year. Your student account is being updated to reflect these changes. Student Financial Services will send an email to all GS students in the coming days with specific information detailing these changes.


As President Bollinger noted in his email earlier today, housing arrangements for undergraduate Columbia School of General Studies students for the fall 2020 term will remain unchanged. Students who are traveling to New York State from outside the US or from US states on the New York State restricted list will be required to quarantine upon arrival. As New York state guidance is subject to change, please visit the state travel advisory page for updates and to see the list of restricted states. Columbia Residential will provide additional instructions for students who are required to quarantine, but please review the Housing and COVID-19 FAQ for updated information and changes to policy or procedures.

COVID-19 Testing and the Columbia Compact

As described in President Bollinger’s letter, Columbia continues to take steps to make our community as safe as possible. Even with the change in course modality, students living in Columbia Residential will be required to participate in gateway testing (initial COVID-19 PCR diagnostic testing), be tested weekly, and be required to adhere to the Columbia Compact. Students living off campus who plan to access campus in the fall will also be required to abide by the Columbia Compact, participate in gateway testing , and will also be part of the random testing throughout the year.

International Students and Dual/Joint Degree Programs

We realize that this announcement will have a particular impact on our international students, and specifically on new international students planning to come to New York in the fall.  While all students, including international students currently living abroad, are able to continue their academic programs virtually this fall, the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) is working to provide further guidance and will be communicating soon. Please look for more information and refer to the ISSO website for updates.

First- and second-year students in our international dual degree programs will continue to receive updates from our partners in France, Ireland, and Israel in preparation for the upcoming semester. We look forward to welcoming third- and fourth-year students in our Dual BA programs to the Columbia classroom virtually this fall, and to supporting our students in the Joint Programs with the List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the City University of Hong Kong. Academic advisors for our international programs are available to assist with questions and to help navigate the upcoming term.


With the support of the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning, faculty have been working intensively throughout the summer to create online courses that support student engagement and integrate novel technologies that facilitate learning. Course updates and additions made in advance of the recent registration windows will remain, with the only change being that all undergraduate classes will now be offered entirely online. All new topical courses will still be available, as will the new seven-week immersive courses. Students will be able to visit courses online at the start of the term to help them make informed decisions about course selection. Additionally, in the next weeks and months you will be hearing about many exciting opportunities to participate in co-curricular activities with faculty, staff, and students at Columbia GS, the other undergraduate colleges, and throughout Columbia University.   

Postbac Premed Prehealth Students

As James Colgrove, Dean of the Postbac Premed Prehealth Program, previously noted, lectures for Physics, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biology will be online, as will the recitations for those courses. There will also be online versions of the laboratory courses for Physics, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biology. While medical schools historically have preferred lab courses to be taken onsite in a physical laboratory, most medical schools have stated they will accept online labs in light of the pandemic. Our advising deans in the Postbac Premed Prehealth Program stand ready to support our students in their coursework and co-curricular activities.  

Online Support and Programming

When we initially moved to an online format in March, our events and student support teams did a remarkable job of shifting to new platforms and continuing to offer our GS students continued services, student life, and community engagement opportunities. Our GS teams have continued to modify and improve those opportunities throughout the summer, which will allow us to continue with a full program of initiatives, support services, and events for the 2020-2021 academic year, across multiple modalities. Our academic advising, educational financing, academic support, and student well-being staff will continue to be available to GS students via virtual advising appointments, as they have throughout the spring and summer. We will be sharing our full and detailed events calendar for the academic year later this month, and are able to host all of these programs online should that be needed for Fall 2020 and/or Spring 2021. Moving forward, we will continue to look for safe opportunities for our New York City-based students to connect in person when health and safety circumstances allow for it. 

Welcoming New Students

I am very happy to let you know that our plans to welcome new students to Columbia and GS remain robust, and we are excited to have an incoming class that exemplifies the bold and resilient spirit for which our community is known. Orientation and Jumpstart programming will continue as planned, with information sessions, panels, and community conversations hosted entirely online. Updated information will be sent to new and current students over the coming weeks.  I encourage all our current students to reach out to new students to welcome them to Columbia and to look to foster new friendships and networking which is so important to our Columbia experience.   

In closing, I would like to thank our incredible GS staff for all their hard work adapting to continually changing circumstances to provide world-class support and programming for GS students. I also want to acknowledge our GS student leaders who have been amazing representatives of the student body throughout the summer in both working to provide resources and solve problems as they arise as well as looking for ways that we can support our local communities and beyond. Just today, I have heard from several students who are looking for creative ways to ensure that our GS community stays strong even if some of us are across the globe. I am also grateful for the partnership of our alumni community in providing resources and support for our students. The amazing response is truly a testament to the strength of the GS community.  

I wish you all a restful final few weeks of summer and look forward to a successful fall semester.


Lisa Rosen-Metsch

Dean, Columbia School of General Studies

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences