A Parent’s Guide to Insurance for College Students

Students heading off to college, especially for the first time, face many insurance issues that they or you may not have considered. Here's a quick look at four of those issues.

Students heading off to college, especially for the first time, face many insurance issues that they or you may not have considered. Here’s a quick look at four of those issues.

Renter’s insurance. Probably the most overlooked form of insurance coverage when a student heads for college is property insurance. Students today tend to own more valuable personal items in their dorm or off-campus apartment than in the past, and campuses are not immune to theft or damage. The Independent Insurance Agents of America estimates 100,000 property crimes occur on campuses annually (that doesn’t count off-campus crimes). Beyond clothing and bedding, a student’s room may contain a DVD player, television, computer and stereo equipment. Students in apartments will likely have additional items such as kitchenware and furnishings.

The school or landlord will probably not cover loss of these contents in such events as fire or theft and the parent’s homeowner’s policy may or may not cover the items. For students living in college housing, policies usually cover contents up to ten percent of the contents coverage of the parent’s policy. For example, if the parents are covered for $75,000, their student is covered up to $7,500. See whether your policy will cover contents and to what dollar maximum. You may need to buy extra coverage through your carrier or even buy a separate renter’s policy.

Your homeowner’s policy almost certainly will not cover contents in off-campus housing. You will most likely need to buy a separate renter’s policy. Some policies will let roommates share the policy. Renter’s policies are affordable, with annual premiums running $150 to $200 for coverage of $15,000 in personal property and $100,000 to $300,000 in liability.

Health insurance. First, find out what coverage your own medical policy will provide for your child, particularly if your child is going to school out of state. It may not cover anything but emergency care. If the policy will still cover your child for routine care, he or she may need to switch to a primary care physician closer to school, or you may need to get local referrals for your student’s out-of-state care.

Age is another factor. Policies generally stop coverage for a child once they reach a certain age, even if they are still a dependent. That cutoff age typically is 23, but could be earlier. Policies also will frequently not cover a child who is a part-time student.

If you don’t have your own medical coverage, or your policy’s coverage is limited, consider student health insurance that many colleges now offer. Typically, it’s affordable, though coverage may be limited (such as no coverage during summer break), with high deductibles. The student also may be able to see a doctor or nurse for free or a nominal fee at the student health center, though more extensive care such as X-rays usually will have fees to cover.

Auto insurance. Seven in ten students have cars at school, according to the Independent Insurance Agents of America. What impact having a family car at college will have on premiums depends in part on where your student goes to school. In some cases, coverage could go up, in other cases it could go down. Regardless, failure to tell the carrier that your child has a car at school could jeopardize subsequent claims. Students earning good grades may actually find their premium reduced.

If your child lives out of the house and doesn’t have a car at school, talk to your insurance agent to see if you can get a premium reduction now that the child isn’t a regular user. You could save hundreds of dollars or more, particularly if you’ve been paying high premiums for teenage drivers and the student is going to school far from home.

Life and disability insurance. Ideally, you should already have sufficient coverage to ensure that your student will be able to finish college should you die or be disabled. However, let this column serve as a reminder in the event you haven’t looked at those policies lately.