The era of online and remote learning seems to be coming to an end. Soon we’ll be back to that familiar end of summer scene. You know, the one where a family packs up the car with dorm necessities and sends their eager college freshmen out into the real work for the first time. Or maybe it’s convincing your future graduate that they don’t need the latest smartphone or gaming computer in order to “study better.” Regardless, sending your children off to college for the first time is both exciting and a little bit scary. Most students have never had to fend for themselves like they do when they first move out for college. As you and your family frantically try to prepare for that first day of post-secondary school, it’s easy to let something slip. One of the most-forgotten items on the list is insurance for college students.
Insurance for college students? Yes, it’s actually an important decision to make. You want to make sure your budding scholar is covered in case of emergency. Not only that, but you should sit down as a family and discuss these insurance options together. Consider it one more important life lesson from the University of Mom and Dad. Here’s what you need to know about your college student’s insurance needs and choices.
Health Insurance For College Students
In some cases, it might make the most sense for students to simply remain on their parents’ health insurance plans. Recent changes mean that adult children can normally keep taking advantage of their parent’s coverage until the age of 26. In most cases (and assuming at least one parent has solid health insurance), this will be your best bet.
However, it may not be available to you. Or perhaps your child is going to college in a different state. That could create complications, like not being able to find an in-network doctor for your student. That leaves you paying your own money for out-of-network coverage. Obviously, that’s not ideal for anyone. So what are your options?
Campus Health Plans
Many students can opt into the campus health plan. This could require that your child get their health care through the student medical center. These plans can vary widely in price. Some are built into student fees, while others are an extra cost. They also typically don’t provide extensive coverage. You’ll probably find plenty of exclusions or low coverage limits.
Most college campuses are worried about handling cold and flu outbreaks. Since university students are generally young and healthy, these campus health plans probably aren’t the best option for anyone with chronic health problems or major medical issues. If your child doesn’t have any serious medical concerns, though, being covered by the campus health plan can be convenient. They can seek most basic medical help right on campus without worrying about expensive costs.
In many cases, students are automatically opted into their school’s campus health insurance plan. If you wanted to waive it for any reason, there is likely some paperwork to fill out. You may even have to provide proof of alternative health insurance coverage in order to opt out. Speaking of alternative coverage, there’s one more option.
If college students can’t be covered by Mom and Dad’s insurance and the campus health plan is lacking (or unavailable), you should seek out private coverage. In many cases, you can find pretty cheap health insurance plans for students. One option is to sign up through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Any potential subsidies are based off of expected income for all members of the household, though (if you are a dependent, according to tax laws). That can mean higher premiums, since the subsidies won’t only consider the student’s income. They will factor in Mom and Dad’s income too.
For some families, doubly covering students with the family insurance plan (or a personal plan) and the campus plan can be a good option. It will provide the best overall coverage, but it can be expensive. At the very least, it means there will be coverage 12 months of the year — and not just the months that your child is attending school. It’s always reassuring to know that your child is always covered, regardless.
Renters Insurance for College Students
If your child is planning to live at home while attending school, their possessions will be covered by your own home insurance policy. In fact, that insurance might still cover their personal artifacts even if they are living on campus. They need to keep their parents’ address listed as their primary residence. There are some caveats to this, however. Generally, insurance companies require that your child be a full-time student and under the age of 24 in order to cover their possessions while away at college.
There are also certain coverage caps you should be aware of. According to Kiplinger, “some insurers cap the coverage at college at 10% of the possessions limit on your homeowner’s policy. So, if you have a $200,000 policy on your home with 50% of that amount, or $100,000, for contents, your kid’s coverage at college may be limited to $10,000.” This means if your child has a lot of expensive equipment, they should probably get a separate renters insurance policy.
In addition, some home insurance will only cover a students’ possessions if they are living on-campus in a student residence. If your child is planning to get an off-campus apartment, you should look into renter’s insurance. These policies generally cost $200 (or less) per year, making them quite affordable. They provide plenty of peace of mind. It’s important to note, however, that your child’s renter’s insurance will not cover their roommate’s possessions. Each roommate will have to purchase their own policy. This makes sense, but it’s important for your child to know.
Car Insurance for College Students
If your young student is able to take a car to college, they should consider themselves lucky. It can be a huge convenience. It also bears a significant cost. On top of gas, general maintenance, and potential parking passes (you think the school is going to let students park for free? Ha!), there’s car insurance to worry about. In general, your child can probably on your insurance policy, as long as you own (or jointly own) the car in question. If your child owns the car outright, though, they will need to get their own coverage.
Don’t forget to ask specifically for college student discounts. Many insurance companies offer good grade discounts, which helps in an otherwise expensive bill. On the other hand, you might be able to save on your own car insurance. If your child’s college is at least 100 miles from your home and they don’t drive any of your cars, let your insurance company know. You might be able to get a drop on your premiums, since your cars aren’t being driven by younger (and therefore “riskier”) drivers.
The Bottom Line
Sending your child off to college for the first time can be stressful. Of course you want them to spread their wings a bit, and turn into fully functioning adults. On the other hand, you may still yearn to keep your precious baby protected. Making sure your child has sufficient insurance coverage of every kind can help ease your mind. Choosing the best policies for your college student will require a little investigation. Having your child help you research the best options will be a great life skill to learn, prior to them leaving the nest.