During a recent phone call, I was advised by a friend, whose son will be a freshman in college this year, that he received several solicitations for insurance coverage for his son’s personal belongings and computer while at school.
After I counseled my friend about his options, I thought it would be a good time to review those options here on the blog. There are a few “do’s and don’ts” that the parents of a new college student should be aware of as their child goes off to school.
I would first like to say, congratulations! Your son or daughter has graduated from high school and is headed off for their first year in college. It is a big step in your lives. It will be a form of independence for both you and your college bound child.
One of the first things a parent should do is check with their current homeowners or renters insurance agent to find out just what coverages are provided on their current policy. There are many policy coverages that these college approved mail solicitations advertise that are already covered under their existing homeowners policy.
A student moving into a college dormitory is already covered under a homeowners policy. That policy will provide coverage for all their contents subject to the policy’s deductible. As long as the student lives in the college dormitory, then there is no need to purchase any coverage on contents such as clothes, stereo or TV.
As I investigated this issue, I found many mailers that are received by parents offer coverage on their child's laptop computer for a premium. Parents should check with their insurance agent to determine if their policy automatically provides coverage under their homeowners policy. In many cases, the policy does provide protection. In some cases, an endorsement for a very minor premium can be added to the policy to provide coverage subject to either no deductible or a reduced deductible.
If your child leaves the dormitory and moves into an apartment, then further review is required as the change in status from college dormitory living to independent apartment living eliminates many of the coverages that your homeowners policy formally provided for your child. The average homeowners policy will not provide coverage for a student’s contents now that they have moved into their own apartment. The student now should buy a renters policy, because they now rent their own apartment and require their own insurance.
Past experience has shown that most parents will look at the additional expense of a renters policy and usually comment that their son or daughter has very little in the way of personal property. They rationalize that they don’t want or need the added expense of such a policy. That decision can have serious consequences.
The renters policy accomplishes three goals. The policy covers the student’s personal property. The policy also will provide an endorsement, similar to the homeowners policy computer endorsement, that protects their child’s laptop computer while at the apartment, the college or car. The most important coverage that the renters policy provides for the student is personal liability coverage. If someone is injured at the apartment during a party or a visit, then the renters policy will protect the student if he or she is sued by the injured person. Threat of a legal suit due to an accident in the apartment is probably the single most important reason why a renters policy should be written for student living off-campus while attending college.
While the above information provides a brief overview of the perils of protection during your child’s year away at college, there is another matter of insurance to deal with and that is automobile insurance.
When a child heads off to college, a car is probably not heading along with the student. If the student does not have a car, then the thinking is that automobile insurance is not necessary for the child either. , When their child goes off to school many parents will contact their automobile insurance carrier to remove that child from their auto policy. The student’s removal from the auto policy is usually done to reduce the annual automobile premium on the parent’s policy. While a reduction in premium is always welcome, the removal of the college bound child from the policy creates a serious gap in the family’s personal insurance program. Once deleted from the family automobile insurance policy, the student no longer has any coverage while driving any vehicle. If your child borrows a fellow student's car and gets into an accident there will be no coverage under the family’s auto insurance policy in the event of damage to another vehicle or injury to a fellow passenger or third-party. If an accident occurs with your child at the wheel, then the relatively modest savings of premium will be eaten up by legal expenses and the potential of a court awarded judgment against your child.
The parents of a college student should reconsider the removal of their child from the automobile policy or advise the child that they are not to drive any vehicle under any terms at any time while they are not covered under the family automobile insurance policy.
In the end, a single call to your insurance agent can help guide you through the “do’s and don'ts” of providing the proper insurance protection for your son or daughter so they can concentrate all their efforts on higher learning just like we all did during our time in college.