Having a child go away to college for the first time—or return to campus after a long summer—is usually met with both pride and concern.
As a student packs their belongings for this new adventure—laptops, iPod, smartphone, clothing, furniture—their parents’ first thought may be: What’s ahead for them in the coming year?
While most families can think of at least one thing to worry about while their kids or grandkids are away from home, it’s rarely: Will my insurance cover their belongings or electronic devices if they get stolen? Or: What if they are in a car accident?
Consider these statistics on the real concerns that students face today:
- In 2010, 97% of crimes reported to campus police were property crimes, according to the FBI
- According to U.S. News, at several universities, up to 98% of students bring cars to campus with them
- Adults between 18 to 29 are much more likely to drive while drowsy compared to other age groups according to the National Sleep Foundation
- Attacks while students are studying abroad are a risk
So before a student becomes immersed in their new studies, new friends and the many opportunities coming his or her way, it’s important that parents do some homework of their own: review their current home and auto insurance policies to be sure their student is covered while away at college, and find out what coverage exists abroad, if needed.
Property Coverage While a College Student is Away
Does a homeowner’s policy cover theft, fire, or liability incidents a child faces while away at school?
The good news is as long as the student is still considered a member of their parents’ household, is going to school full-time and under the age of 24, a homeowner’s policy should extend to a child’s new location when living on campus.
But a parent will still want to assess everything their student will be taking with them—electronics, sports equipment, jewelry, and other valuables—to confirm whether or not they need extra protection.
Sometimes there are special limits on personal property coverage while away from home. Most homeowner’s policies will provide coverage up to 10% of the personal property limit for a child’s belongings while at their new location.
If a student is living off campus, coverage can get tricky. In these instances, a request to add the new living location to the homeowner’s liability policy is recommended.
However, a landlord may require the student have renters insurance under their own name. A renters insurance policy is one of the best ways to protect a student’s property and liability at a reasonable cost.
If a student is going away to school in a different state, coverage may not travel with them, further investigation may be required.
For tips parents can share with students on protecting valuables while away, check out this article at Consumer Reports.
Auto Coverage While a College Student is Away
Parents should review their auto insurance program. Whether or not their student will be bringing a car to school, a coverage review is important at this time.
If a student doesn’t take a car with them on campus, it’s a good idea to still keep them listed as a driver on their parents’ auto policy. Generally speaking, this will ensure the student is covered for driving incidents when they return home for a weekend, as a passenger in somebody else’s car or a driver in someone else’s car.
Keeping a child listed as an occasional driver on an auto policy while away at school reduces costs, and provides continuous auto protection for them while they are away. If they are considered a good student, there are also additional savings.
Another important auto concern to discuss with students is when they drive someone else’s car while they are away.
For coverage to be applicable at the time of an accident, most auto insurance programs require permissive use to drive a non-owned vehicle. However, this permission must be given by the person who is the named insured on the auto insurance policy in order for there to be coverage.
In most cases, it would be the parents who own the car who must give permission and not the student. So students need to be educated about the risks involved in driving someone else’s car while they are away.
When a child does take a car that’s registered in their parents’ name, they should also notify their auto broker of the new garaging address.
Having continuous auto coverage provides additional savings for students when they are ready to purchase a vehicle of their own. They can show that there wasn’t any gap in their insurance protection versus being rated as a brand new driver.
(When kids do in fact hold the title to a vehicle, they need to obtain their own auto insurance coverage to properly protect them from all losses.)
A final note: When a student is away at college in another state, it’s important to understand that state’s minimum liability requirements for auto insurance, and whether or not additional protection is needed.
In California, the minimum coverage required for auto programs is only $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident. If a student was headed to New York, for example, it is important to find out the additional insurance required by New York to confirm the California auto policy covers their state minimum requirements.
Insurance Coverage While a College Student is Abroad
If a student is studying internationally, travel and medical insurance is available that allows them to have coverage when their US policy presents a gap.
This coverage will protect a student while they are abroad for medical injuries, as well as offer applications they can download on their phone that highlight local doctors, hospitals, etc. within their coverage area. Most US insurance programs do not offer coverage internationally, so it is critical to review the medical coverage offered for clarity before they leave.
Insurance is generally the last thing parents think about when their child goes off to college. Making the time to speak with their insurance agent or broker regarding a student’s new exposures before they leave will help them better understand if there are any gaps in coverage, and options for protecting family.