Is your college student covered?

With students coming home for the holidays, this may be a good time to review some insurance issues you may have overlooked.

Here are some things to consider, from Dennis Filangeri, a certified financial planner based in San Diego.

Renter's insurance

Probably the most overlooked form of insurance coverage when a student heads for college is property insurance. Students today tend to own more valuable personal items in their dorms or off-campus apartments than in the past, and campuses are not immune to theft or damage.

The Independent Insurance Agents of America Inc. (IIAA) estimates that 100,000 property crimes occur on campuses annually (that doesn't count off-campus crimes). A student's room may contain a DVD player, a TV, a computer and stereo equipment. Students in apartments will likely have additional items such as kitchenware and furnishings.

The school or landlord will not cover loss of these contents in such events as fire or theft. The parents' homeowner's policy may or may not cover the items.

For students living in college housing, policies usually cover up to 10 percent of the contents coverage of the parents' policy. For example, if the parents are covered for $75,000, their student is covered up to $7,500. See whether your policy will cover contents and to what dollar maximum. You may need to buy extra coverage through your carrier or even buy a separate renter's policy.

Your homeowner's policy probably will not cover contents in off-campus housing. You will most likely need to buy a separate renter's policy. Some insurance companies will let roommates share the policy. Renter's policies are affordable, with annual premiums running $150 to $200 for coverage of $15,000 in personal property and $100,000 to $300,000 in liability.

Health insurance

First, says Filangeri, "Find out what coverage your own medical policy will provide for your child, particularly if your child is going to school out of state. It may not cover anything but emergency care." If the policy will cover your child for routine care, you may need to switch to a primary care physician closer to where the student is going to school, or you may need to get local referrals for your student's out-of-state care.

Age is another factor. Policies generally stop coverage for a child once they reach a certain age, even if they are still a dependent. That cutoff age typically is 23, but could be earlier. Policies also will frequently not cover a child who is a part-time student.

If your policy's coverage is limited, consider student health insurance that many colleges now offer. Typically, it's affordable, although coverage may be limited (such as no coverage during summer break), with high deductibles. The student also may be able to see a doctor or nurse for free or for a nominal fee at the student health center, although more extensive care, such as getting an X-ray, usually will cost.

Auto insurance

Seven in 10 students have cars at school, according to IIAA. The impact on your premiums for having a family car at college depends in part on where your student goes to school. In some cases, coverage could go up, in other cases it could go down. Regardless, failure to tell the carrier that your child has a car at school could jeopardize subsequent claims. Students earning good grades also can help reduce premiums.

If your child lives out of the house and doesn't have a car at school, talk to your insurance agent to see if you can get a premium reduction now that the child isn't a regular user. You could save hundreds of dollars or more, particularly if you've been paying high premiums for teenage drivers and the student is going to school far from home.

Life and disability insurance

Ideally, you should already have sufficient coverage to ensure that your student will be able to finish college should you die or be disabled. However, packing your student off to college may be a good reminder in the event you haven't looked at those policies lately.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@qis.net.

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