My Child Is At College. What Should I Know About Insurance?
Going from high school to college is a huge transition. As a parent, you may be asking yourself what you can do to support and protect your kids as they make the transition, taking their first real steps into adulthood.
Insurance may not be the first thing you think of. But the truth is that insurance is another way you can help them ensure that these first steps are as safe and protected as possible. So as your child leaves for college this fall, take a moment to understand what your insurance covers, what it doesn’t, and where you may need more coverage.
Living in the Dorm? Homeowners Policies May Apply.
Generally, moving into the dorm means buying some furniture or other items — everything from lamps to laptops to those extra-long twin bed sheets. Are those items covered by your insurance? Most likely, yes! Standard homeowners policies cover students enrolled in school full-time who lived with you before moving out to attend school, provided they’re either (a) under age 24 and your relative, or (b) under age 21 and in your care or the care of a resident of your home (e.g., an exchange student).
In those cases, as their parent or caretaker, your homeowners or renters policy should cover repair or replacement of their personal property in the dorm. That said, most policies limit this coverage to a set percentage of your homeowners policy’s personal property coverage. This is “off-premise” coverage, and you can always expand it if you wish. Talk to your agent or advisor about the limits specific to your policy. Determine if you want to extend it based on how much stuff your kid plans to stuff into their dorm rooms.
Your homeowners policy’s personal liability and medical payments coverage may also extend to cover your full-time, dorm-living students. That means you could be covered in the event your kid accidentally causes property damage or bodily injury to someone else. Your policy’s personal liability coverage may pay for legal costs, repairs, or medical bills.
Of course, all liability coverage has limitations. It won’t cover any property damage or bodily injury incurred by intentional or illegal activities (e.g., underage drinking, illegal drug use). It also won’t cover any property damage or bodily injury incurred by any of their roommates.
Living Off Campus? Consider Renters Insurance.
If your kid will be living off campus, check with your insurance agent or advisor to understand whether your homeowners policy applies. If it doesn’t, your college student will likely need a standalone renters insurance policy.
Renters insurance will cover stolen or damaged personal property while also providing personal liability coverage. If someone is injured in your kid’s off-campus apartment, it could protect both of you from paying hefty medical bills. It can also cover their temporary living expenses if their apartment has become uninhabitable due to a covered loss.
That High-tech Stuff May Need Its Own Insurance.
Whether your student will be living on or off campus, keep in mind that high-value items like cell phones and computers may deserve their own insurance. This could be a policy from the cellular provider, computer manufacturer, or even the credit card company used to purchase the tech.
Another way to protect your kid’s valuables while they’re away from home? It’s a good idea to engrave or otherwise mark all their high-tech gadgets, as well as to create an inventory listing them all. That way, you’re covered if something does happen and you need to file a claim.
How Can I Protect My Kids Online?
For better or worse, your new college student is probably active on the internet. That means you should consider adding personal injury coverage. Personal injury coverage can pay legal costs if your kid posts objectionable content on social media or the internet that results in charges of slander, libel, defamation, emotional distress, mental injury, invasion of privacy, and other charges. However, it won’t cover any illegal activities, or situations in which your child knew that what they were doing or saying was wrong.
Standard homeowners policies and renters policies do not include personal injury coverage. Fortunately, adding a personal injury endorsement tends to be relatively inexpensive. So it’s worth a conversation with your insurance agent or advisor about adding this important coverage to your policy.
What If My Student Is Traveling Abroad?
Not all insurance policies provide international coverage. Again, talk to your insurance agent or advisor about this one.
Are There Policies Designed for College Students?
There are, in fact, dedicated insurance policies for kids going to college. Potentially, exploring this option could save you money and make things less complicated.
Your insurance agent or advisor will be able to tell you which option makes sense for your situation. Some zip codes may mean cheaper rates.
What About My Kid’s Car?
What about the car? If your child is keeping their car back at home and won’t be driving around campus, make sure to tell your insurance carrier. You may get a price break. But it’s usually a good idea to keep them on your auto insurance policy regardless. They may need to drive when they come home to visit, and they could end up borrowing friends’ cars on campus. Some auto insurance policies may also help pay medical costs if they’re injured by another vehicle while on foot, on a bike, or as a passenger.
However, if a car’s title is in your kid’s name, it’s time to get a new policy just for them.
Finally, make sure you don’t miss out on potential discounts. You may be able to save money with a “good student” discount that’s based on their grades. With some carriers, there’s also a “distant student discount” for kids who go to college more than 100 miles away.
Talk to Your Kids About Their Coverage.
Take the time to help your new college student understand the insurance coverage they have. Otherwise, if they spill a soda on their computer, rendering it useless, they may not understand that they shouldn’t just toss it out their dorm window. Bottom line, if they understand their coverage, they’ll be more apt to communicate with you in situations in which insurance may help.
Insure a Safe, Protected Future for Your Student.
Insurance is vital as kids take their first tentative steps into full autonomy. A conversation with your insurance agent or advisor will pay huge dividends in peace of mind. Most likely, you’ll still feel some qualms as you wave goodbye. Qualms and all, you’ll feel confident that you’ve done what you can to ensure their safe passage.
Want to make sure your homeowners coverage extends to your college student? One of our expert advisors will be happy to do a free policy review. Just give us a call at (303) 302-9927 or send us a message.