Parking is expensive in the city, but always available. Though street parking is available at metered locations along the street, most visitors to Columbia's South Loop campus park their cars in paid lots located along Wabash Avenue between Congress Parkway and Roosevelt Road (600 South to 1200 South). Daily rates start at about $8.
The one occasion when parking is not available would be move-in day for the dorms. On this busy day, come prepared to wait for up to two hours on a parking space. The best and most honest answer to the parking problem within the city is—drumroll—don't bring your car. Walk, ride your bike, or take the CTA. It'll save you money and a headache.