Did Barack Obama Attend Columbia University as a Foreign Student?

A 1981 Columbia University card identifying Barack Obama as a foreign student named Barry Soetoro is a fake.

Claim

A 1981 Columbia University student ID card identifies Barack Obama as a foreign student named Barry Soetoro.

Rating

Origin

Numerous rumors have been circulated over the years claiming that Barack Obama attended college in the United States as a foreign student and/or under the name Barry Soetoro (the latter reflecting the surname of his Indonesian stepfather), evidence which would supposedly demonstrate that at some point in his life Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen and is therefore ineligible to hold the office of President of the United States. An image displayed here of a purported 1981 Columbia University student ID card identifying Barack Obama as a “foreign student” named “Barry Soetoro” is yet another entry in this vein:

However, the ID card pictured above is not a real Columbia University student ID issued to Barack Obama (under any name) in 1981; it’s simply an altered version of a Columbia University ID card issued to another student in 1998:

Additionally, the pictured card couldn’t possibly have have been a Columbia University student ID issued to Barack Obama in 1981, as the digital ID card format it uses wasn’t introduced at Columbia until 1996.

Finally, the pictured ID card is obviously a forgery, as the photograph it bears is not a picture of a 20-year-old Barack Obama from 1981; it’s a picture taken several years later, during or shortly after Barack Obama’s time at Harvard Law School (1988-1991).

  • Bookman, Jay.   "Some Cold Water on Overheated Birther-Mania."     The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.   27 January 2012.

Dear Reader,

Snopes.com has long been engaged in the battle against misinformation, an effort we could not sustain without support from our audience. Producing reliable fact-checking and thorough investigative reporting requires significant resources. We pay writers, editors, web developers, and other staff who work tirelessly to provide you with an invaluable service: evidence-based, contextualized analysis of facts. Help us keep Snopes.com strong. Make a direct contribution today. Learn More.

Donate with PayPal