In a way, a school's stipulation that you can't use financial aid to pay off cc debt is a bit ridiculous. I am sure because of tight budgeting, in most cases it wouldn't be feasible, but in my case it will be necessary and fairly easy.
After working my way through undergrad, I only have a bit of student loans, but no savings. So since I quit my part-time job after graduation to move back home for a month, then across country, there is no way to pay expenses. Deposits were $700, and just my flight was $250. Add in other expenses and I have about $1500 in debt. However, I worked out my school's budget, added in the things they forgot (health insurance anyone?) and I will still have a surplus of about $2500. They budgeted $1000k per month for an apartment, mine is $600.
Clearly $20k is a lot more than $1.5k, and NYC and Columbia are expensive, and I would be way too scared to go to school with that much debt before trying to minimize it a bit. However, I think if you have an extra $400 a month, you should spend it on what you need to (or not take out that much!). I guess I really didn't make too much of a point,
but I really don't think the school will check up on it, but who knows!