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A Scholarship Search Strategy for ParentsSuzanne Shaffer
If you’re moving a child to college this fall, you will soon be in the midst of some serious shopping. As you buy extra-long twin sheets, shower caddies, storage bins, desk accessories and more, have you thought about insurance? If not, move it straight to the top of the list!
Most colleges require full-time students to have health insurance. Some market their own health insurance plans, automatically enrolling incoming students and adding the premium to the tuition bill. To get the charge removed, you will have to prove your student is adequately insured and sign a waiver (this can usually be done online).
Before accepting the college’s health insurance, compare your options. If you have an employer-provided family health plan, experts recommend keeping that coverage for your college student. Dependents can be covered on a family plan until age 26 under the Affordable Care Act. Talk to your current insurance carrier about how your student can access care away from home, in a college town or abroad. Ask about in-network and out-of-network coverage and research in-network doctors near the college.
If a family plan is not available, compare the college plan and insurance you can purchase on the marketplace. Compare deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Don’t simply look at the premiums, but compare all aspects of each plan.
Every college has its own policies regarding primary care services for students. Most have student health clinics on campus that provide care for a nominal charge or even free. My daughter obtained basic health care while in college at the campus health clinic for a $10 co-pay, just by virtue of being a student. This was covered in her mandatory student activity fee. Any major medical issues will have to be addressed off campus using your student’s family health plan.
Even though young adults tend to be healthy, new health issues can arise during college such as the need for birth control or treatment for a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. Students are also at high risk for accidents and injuries. Health insurance should be a priority.
If your student takes a car to college and remains on your auto insurance policy, you need to alert your insurance company. Depending on where they attend school, you may have to make changes to meet minimum coverage requirements for that state, which could impact your premium. The vehicle will be rated based on its location as well, which could also make a difference in your premium.
If your student doesn’t take a car to college, it’s still a good idea to leave them on your policy so they can drive during breaks. Call your insurance company to see if this qualifies you for a discount since your student won’t be driving the car often.
Residence halls are not secure environments. Although students must have an ID card to enter their dorm, it’s easy for someone to enter with a resident and students aren't always diligent about keeping their individual rooms locked.
Your homeowner’s policy may extend to cover your student’s belongings, but talk to your agent about what is covered and whether or not you need to purchase additional insurance.
If your student is living off campus, renters insurance is a must and should be a separate policy in your student’s name. These policies are inexpensive but will protect your student against theft and property damage and also provide liability coverage.
Because they share personal data through social media, often use ineffective passwords with their online accounts, and don’t bother to shred personal documents that contain financial information, college students are popular targets for identity thieves.
Identify theft insurance can guard your student against financial loss. Your current homeowner’s policy may include identity theft coverage or allow you to purchase a rider for fraud protection. When shopping for coverage, compare deductible levels and whether the policy covers costs such as court fees and lost wages.
When my daughter was in college, her laptop was stolen. I was happy I purchased additional insurance on her computer. With a small deductible, the laptop was replaced. The same is true for other gadgets like smartphones and tablets. They may not get stolen but they will be lost at some point. Even though these losses will be covered on your home insurance policy or renters insurance, the high deductible won’t justify filing a claim.
By purchasing protection plans for your student’s electronics, you can insure them against theft, damage or loss. Such plans typically have low costs with very minimal deductibles and are well worth the peace of mind they provide.
This insurance provides coverage in case your student is forced to withdraw from college for medical or other reasons. Some colleges offer this coverage through a third party (you may already have received information by mail). Before purchasing tuition insurance, review the college’s refund policy so that you understand the timeline and circumstances for receiving a full or partial tuition refund in case of withdrawal.
Finaid.org explains the federal R2T4 regulations regarding tuition refunds and gives specific information about these policies. Read these guidelines and compare policies before deciding to purchase.
When your college student starts their first semester, it’s not just a big deal for them. It’s a big deal for you, too. Get the First Semester Guide for College Parents now!