What are your children packing for their trip to college this fall – laptops, TVs, printers, tablets and gaming systems? Today’s dorm room is a veritable treasure trove of expensive gear. Two roommates might have more than $6,000 worth of electronics and other items, such as a musical instrument or a fancy coffeemaker, in their small space. And apparently a lot of that stuff goes missing. Theft of personal property is the most common crime on college campuses, according to U.S. Department of Education data. It is now more important than ever that students and parents purchase the appropriate insurance protection for peace of mind at school.
Theft can be a major concern on college campuses; according to U.S. Department of Education there were about 40,000 thefts in 2006. And campus fires are on the rise, too. In 2014, based on 692 institutions with 708 campuses, the number of fires that occurred in on-campus student housing facilities was 2,102.
For students who live in a dorm, most personal possessions are covered under their parents’ homeowners or renter’s insurance policies. However, some home insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions. This means that if the parents have $70,000 worth of insurance for their belongings, only $7,000 would be applicable to possessions in the dorm. Not all insurers impose this type of limit, so you should check with your agent or insurance company representative.
Expensive computer and electronic equipment and items such as jewelry may also be subject to coverage limits under a standard homeowners policy. If you think the limits are too low, you may want to consider buying a personal property floater or an endorsement for these items. Some companies also offer stand-alone insurance policies for computers and cell phones. Or you may also want to consider purchasing a stand-alone policy specifically designed for students living away at college. This can sometimes be the most economical way to provide additional insurance coverage for a variety of disasters.
Students planning to live off campus are likely not covered by their parents’ homeowners policy at all and may need to purchase their own renters insurance policy. Plan ahead and consult your insurance agent to see if your homeowners or renters policy extends to off-campus living situations.
For students going off to college, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends the following:
Leave valuables at home if possible
While it may be necessary to take a computer or sports equipment to campus, other expensive items, such as valuable jewelry, luxury watches or costly electronics, should be left behind or kept in a local safety deposit box.
Create a “dorm inventory”
Before leaving home, students should make a detailed inventory of all the items they are taking with them, and revise it every year. Having an up-to- date inventory will help get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters. For an easy way to put together an inventory, download the I.I.I.’s free Home Inventory Software application.
Engrave electronic items such as computers, televisions and portable devices like iPods with your name or other identifying information that can help police track the stolen articles.
Here is some advice from the I.I.I. to guard against theft of personal belongings on campus. Take time to go over this list with your college-bound children.
Always lock your dorm room door and keep your keys with you at all times, even if you leave briefly. And, not just at night—most dorm thefts occur during the day. Make a pact with your roommates do the same.
Don’t leave belongings unattended on campus. Whether you are in class, the library, the dining hall or other public areas, make a conscious effort to keep book bags, purses and laptops with you at all times. These are the primary areas where property theft occurs.
Buy a laptop security cable and use it. A combination lock that needs decoding may be just enough to dissuade a thief.
Most campus fires are cooking related so be careful about the types of hot plates or microwaves you to bring to school, and know how to use them.
In the event a student is planning to have a car on campus, choose a safe, reliable vehicle with a low theft rate. You can check the theft rate for a make and model at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration .You should also check with your own insurance company as most offer a multi-car discount. If you decide to keep the student’s car at home, be sure to contact your auto insurance company, as many insurers will give discounts for students who are living away at school at least 100 miles away from home.
Freedom Insurance Agency offers a wide range of insurance coverage to protect you and your family. Call today to see how we can help you and your college-bound graduates!