For the college-bound, insurance can be crucial

It’s inevitable something will be forgotten in the excitement of sending a child to college. Tuition? Paid. Books ordered? Check. Shopping? Completed. Insurance taken care of? Oops.

Insurance is often overlooked in the scramble. But relying on existing coverage — or a lack of it — can end up costing families. Parents don’t need lots of additional insurance as they pack a kid off to college. But they had better at least review their coverage. Some key factors:

■  Health: Many colleges require health insurance. Most parents meet that by keeping their children on their plan, which federal law allows until age 26. If the college is in another state, it’s important to check whether your plan’s network of preferred doctors and hospitals extends there.


School-sponsored health plans usually cost hundreds of dollars per semester. Many also cap coverage and require that most care be provided through the student medical center. These options are best for students whose parents don’t have health insurance. An alternative would be an individual health insurance plan. A student should be able to obtain a policy that costs no more than $150 a month.

■  Auto: Car insurance is an area where families can actually save money. Premiums may be reduced 10 to 20 percent if the student attends a college more than 100 miles away and does not take a car. And, car on campus or not, some insurers also offer a ‘‘good student discount’’ for those who maintain a B average or higher.

■  Personal property: It’s not unusual for students to have thousands of dollars of electronic gadgets and other belongings ­— popular targets for thieves. Such items typically are covered by the parents’ homeowners or renters insurance, minus a deductible. But coverage varies.

Photographing each expensive possession can help ensure you’ll get proper replacement value.


To protect against items being lost, or for extra coverage with a lower deductible, renters insurance is available, usually for $150 to $200 a year. Deductibles can be as low as $50.

Anyone living off-campus will need a separate renters policy, as will each roommate.

■   Tuition: Tuition refund insurance gets your money back if a student withdraws from college, generally only for documented medical reasons or the death of the student or parent.

‘‘It’s not something that you really need, and it’s relatively expensive,’’ says Mark Kantrowitz, founder of the financial aid site FinAid.org.

But parents may want to think about buying it if they’re paying all the costs at an expensive school without financial aid, or if the child has a serious medical condition.

■  Travel: Insurance can help cover costs of a semester abroad marred or lost because of illness, accident, theft, or other setbacks. Exclusions vary widely. Check with the college first, and carefully read the fine print of any policy.

Dave Carpenter writes for the Associated Press.