Paying for College

Insure Your College Student

College life has gotten increasingly complex over the past decade. If you're the parent of a high school senior who's heading to college (or even an actual high school senior, yourself, heading for college), you need to know about insurance. I'm not talking about life insurance; I'm talking about insurance to cover medical problems, theft, and "disasters."

Here are some facts that you may not have considered:

- Nearly one-third of colleges require kids to have student health insurance.

- One option for your child is a student health insurance plan from the school.

- Students will need insurance to protect personal property, such as a laptop or stereo.

Here's one real-life anecdote from the College Confidential discussion forum that proves the need for insurance:

This (sophomore) year a pipe in the bathroom over S2's dorm room burst & his room was flooded. Fortunately laptop #2 and his stereo were not damaged but other students in the dorm lost TVs & expensive electronics. We did not need to file any claims but they would have been covered by our dorm insurance policy.

Here are some interesting and timely insights about what types of insurance you will need when you head off to those ivy-covered dorms.

College must-have: student insurance

By Vanessa Richardson

College kids may be young and fearless, but that doesn't mean they're immune to illness, theft or even lawsuits. To be sure, student insurance coverage is as important a decision to make as course curriculum and perhaps a monthly allowance. But what types of insurance do your children need?

Health insurance

Even if your kids don't think they need it, they may not have a choice. Nearly one-third of colleges and universities require kids to have student health insurance upon enrollment, according to a 2008 study by the Government Accountability Office.

But thanks to the new health care law, young adults not covered by an employer-provided plan can remain on their parents' health care plan until age 26. That's usually the best bet because employer-based health insurance is usually the most comprehensive.

However, students moving far from home may not have access to providers in your plan. If they're out of network, you may have to pay a higher deductible and co-insurance. Dave Evans, senior vice president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America in Alexandria, Va., recommends reviewing your health care plan during open enrollment season this year. Try to pick one for next year that's flexible on out-of-network providers if your child is attending a faraway college ...

Property insurance

No matter where your college-bound student ends up living, he or she definitely needs insurance to cover theft and damage of personal property, such as a laptop, stereo and bicycle. In a rental, the landlord's insurance doesn't cover their items if stolen or damaged due to fire, theft or other circumstances.

If you have homeowners insurance, your child's personal property is covered if she lives in a dormitory and usually covered if he or she lives off campus, says Bill Wilson, associate vice president of education and research for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Usually most homeowners insurance policies will allot 10 percent of personal property to a student not living at home.

"So if you have a $100,000 policy, your kid will have $10,000 of coverage," Wilson says. But he advises students to make a list of possessions and estimate their value. "Add up the Xbox, laptop, TV, bicycle and clothes, and it could be more than you think."

Some student insurance may not cover college kids living by themselves off campus. Check your policy or contact your agent to see if the kids are covered, or consider renters insurance. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, premiums average from $15 to $30 per month, depending on rental location and size as well as the policyholder's possessions. Like a homeowners policy, you can choose between personal property and liability coverage, and cash value or replacement cost coverage ...

For some good sources for student insurance, naturally, just go to your favorite search engine and enter "college student insurance." As always, you'll be overwhelmed with the possibilities. Just remember the broken water pipe story.
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.