Insurance coverage for college students

Students and parents who in the past counted Students and parents who in the past counted on an additional Pell grant for summer classes should check with the college's financial aid office about alternatives. The extra summer Pell grant was eliminated last year by Congress. Photo Credit: iStock

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It's inevitable that something will be forgotten when sending a child to college.

Tuition bill paid? Done.

Textbooks ordered? Check.

Shopping completed? Yep.

Insurance? Oops.

Relying on existing coverage can end up costing families during the college years and perhaps beyond. Best to be prepared for that stolen iPad, trip to the emergency room or worse. A look at key considerations for different types of insurance:

HEALTH: Many colleges and universities require health insurance. Most parents can meet that by keeping their children on their plan, which federal health reform allows until age 26.

If the college is in another state, it's important to see whether your plan's network of preferred doctors and hospitals extends there.

School-sponsored plans usually cost hundreds of dollars per semester and are best-suited for students whose parents don't have health insurance.

An alternative is an individual health plan, generally for about $150 a month. Check prices at eHealthInsurance.com or StudentHealthPlan.com.

AUTO: Car insurance is an area where families can actually save money. Premiums may be cut by up to 20 percent if the student attends a college more than 100 miles away and doesn't take a car. Some insurers also offer a "good student discount" for those with a B average and up.

PERSONAL PROPERTY: It's not unusual for students to have thousands of dollars of electronic gadgets and other belongings in their dorm rooms -- and they are popular targets for theft.

Such items typically are covered by the parents' homeowners or renters insurance. But coverage varies, so check.

Taking a photograph of each expensive item can help ensure a fair settlement if it's stolen.

Renters insurance is available for about $150-$200 a year.

TUITION: Tuition refund insurance is a means of getting your money back if the student withdraws from college -- generally only for documented medical reasons or due to the death of the student, parent or guardian.

It's pricey and not a must, but parents may want to think about it if they're paying all the costs at an expensive school without financial aid, or if the child has a serious medical condition.

First, look into the college's refund policies and tuition insurance plan.

Another option is coverage through Sallie Mae, which provides $5,000 in protection a year for borrowers and sells separate $20,000 policies for $359 a year.

LIFE: Buying life insurance for a college kid might sound overly cautious, if not macabre. But it can make sense for parents who co-sign for tens of thousands in private student loans. Some lenders, but not all, will forgive loans for co-signers if the student dies or is permanently disabled. It's possible to get a $100,000 term life policy for a student for less than $100 a year.

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