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Check Insurance Coverage Before Students Leave for College

By Jane Nicholson

BOONE–With classes right around the corner, now is a good time for parents to check their insurance policies before their son or daughter leaves for college, an Appalachian State University business professor advises.

“Talk to your agent,” says Dr. David D. Wood. “This is a milestone event in your life and as with any change in your life, it’s an important time to review your insurance.”

Wood is the Freeman Distinguished Professor of Insurance in Appalachian’s Walker College of Business. He urges parents to make sure that their family medical and homeowners policies are adequate to cover their son or daughter while away at school and that their college student has sufficient auto insurance.

“Health policies typically provide coverage for children who are full-time students under age 21. But health insurance polices are not standardized,” Wood said. “They vary. Discuss your coverage and needs with your insurance agent.” If a student takes fewer classes than a college or university’s full-time course load, for example, he or she may not qualify for coverage under the parent’s policy, he said.

Universities often offer supplemental accident policies to students, but Wood cautions parents against relying solely on this kind of policy. “Often people think that if anything happens, it will be an accident. It doesn’t matter whether a student is injured in an accident or becomes really ill. The medical costs can be great, and medical costs from an illness can be greater than that of accident.”

Wood said major medical group policies cover most medical incidents, whether they occur from illness or accident.

A survey by the Independent Insurance Agents of America and College Parents of America indicates that one in five college students rents an apartment during the academic year. Wood advises parents to first check their homeowners policy before adding renters insurance for their child.

“Most policies provide limited coverage for students’ possessions, regardless if they are living in a residence hall or an apartment or rental house while away at college,” Wood said. “The bottom line is that the college student is still considered to be a resident of the parents’ household.”

He cautioned, however, that there could be limits on the coverage available on certain types of property, such as jewelry, or against theft if the student leaves their apartment for 45 days with their belongings inside. Increased coverage limits might be necessary to cover the theft of a computer and other electronic equipment, which could exceed a policy’s contents coverage limits.

“A nontraditional student would need renters insurance for their property and liability exposures,” Wood said.

If the student’s parents live in rental property and have rental insurance, that too may extend to the student’s possessions.

Leaving for college is also a good time to review automobile insurance coverage, Wood said. “Be sure your limits are adequate,” he urges.

Life insurance might be an important consideration for the student who is married or has a dependent child. Otherwise, Wood said the only reason to buy life insurance is for financial reasons— to cover funeral costs or medical expenses should the student die while in college.

“The bottom line is talk with your insurance agent concerning health coverage, property insurance and liabilities limits, particularly to make sure that auto insurance limits are high enough in today’s litigious society,” Wood emphasizes.

The Walker College of Business offers a bachelor of science degree with a major in risk and insurance. The degree prepares students for careers in the insurance industry in areas such as underwriting, financial planning, claims adjustment and risk analysis.

The college also operates the Brantley Risk and Insurance Center, which works to increase student involvement with the insurance industry. The center also supports teaching, encourages research on insurance topics and provides a vehicle for on-going interaction with the insurance industry through continuing education programs, executive-in-residence appointments, internships and placement of graduates.