MS&H Blog

If Your Child Is Headed Off to College, Remember to Study the Insurance Implications

When students leave home for college, they take along their laptops, myriad electronic devices and other valuables–but are they covered by insurance?

The parents of college students moving to on-campus or off-campus housing should review their insurance policies to make sure their children’s personal possessions are covered while they are away at school, according to the  Insurance Information Institute  (I.I.I.). Before a child heads off to college the I.I.I. recommends taking the following steps:

  1. Create a ‘dorm inventory’—a list of items the student plans to bring to school, along with its estimated value. To make this process easier, the I.I.I. has created free Web-based software, available at Be sure to note specific high-value items such as a computer, camera or musical instrument and scan receipts into the system in order to document their retail value. Having an up-to-date inventory can help determine how much insurance to purchase and get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
  2. Contact your insurance agent or company representative—college is a major life event  that may trigger the need for changes in insurance coverage, so ask about the insurance implications of a son or daughter becoming a full-time student and determine if supplemental insurance is needed. And, don’t forget to ask about discounts or ways to reduce costs.
Some homeowners and/or renters policies include protection for a college student’s personal possessions (e.g., a TV, clothing and furniture) away from home, if they live on-campus and the student’s property is stolen or damaged. Other policies may limit the amount of coverage for a college student’s belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions. So if parents have $100,000 worth of personal possessions insurance for the family’s primary residence, for example, only $10,000 would be applicable to possessions in their youngster’s dorm room. In both cases, the student’s possessions would be covered for the same disasters that are in a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. These perils would include, fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters such as a hurricane. The student would  not  be covered for typical college type mishaps such as accidently spilling coffee on an expensive electronic device.
Items such as jewelry and musical instruments may be subject to dollar limits under a standard homeowners or renters policy. If these limits are too low, parents may want to consider buying a personal property floater or an endorsement to their homeowners or renters policy. This provides a higher amount of insurance and broader coverage. Most jewelry floaters, for instance, include additional coverage for “mysterious disappearance.”
It may make sense for students to leave expensive jewelry at home or store it in a safe deposit box. Floaters for storing jewelry in a safe deposit box are generally less costly and many insurers will let you take jewelry out and wear it if you let them know in advance.
Parents may want to look into acquiring stand-alone policies for desktop computers, laptops, tablets and iPads, and other electronics as they may provide coverage against accidental damage, liquid spills and other events not included under a standard homeowners or renters policy. Keep in mind that if you are using a credit card to buy such items, some insurance protection may also be available through the card itself.
Students who live off-campus may not be covered under their parents’ homeowners or renters policy and may need to purchase their own renters insurance coverage.

Other Coverages to Consider

  • Auto Insurance:  If the student has been driving the family car and will now be away at college, at least 100 miles from home, make sure you let your insurance company know. You may be eligible for a discount on your auto insurance. If your son or daughter has their own car, it is very important to let your insurance company know if the car will be at school or left home, as the cost of the insurance will be based on where the car resides. Many auto insurance companies will also give a discount to students who get good grades at school.
  • Tuition Insurance:  This coverage refunds a significant portion of semester tuition and on-campus room and board when a student withdraws at any time during a  to a covered medical reason, including emotional, nervous or mental disorders or the death of the student. There is no coverage if the student voluntarily withdraws from school. Student loans used to pay for college costs can also be covered by the policy. Tuition insurance is available to students through participating colleges and universities, including some graduate programs, and is provided by third-party insurers; these policies cost anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent of tuition per semester. The average tuition cost for U.S. private schools in 2010 was $27,293 per year, according to the College Board, a nonprofit organization that keeps track of higher education information.

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