Why You May Need Dorm Insurance for Your College-Bound Child

Before you make a decision, learn about the risks and your options

College student working in a library Photo: Kilito Chan/Getty Images

If your child is headed to college for the first time this year, you may want to consider buying dorm insurance for all the electronics and other possessions he or she may be taking along.

These policies usually cover not only laptopssmartphones, and wireless speakers but also digital cameras, bicycles, sports equipment, and musical instruments.

In general, this coverage is relatively affordable. But before you plunk down your money for dorm insurance, it’s important to assess the risks and know your options.

What's the Threat?

Overall, the threat to your student’s belongings is small. The number of on-campus burglaries and robberies reported in 2018 was 5,004, or about seven property crimes per 10,000 full-time students, according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Department of Education. 

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That’s only a small fraction of the number of incidents for the overall U.S. population, according to data from the FBI, which reported nearly 7 million property crimes in 2019.

The rates vary widely by school. The University of California, San Francisco had one of the highest crimes rates in 2019, the FBI says. Its 356 burglaries and larceny thefts for a student body of 3,201 extrapolate to a rate of 11,121 per 100,000 students. By contrast, 20 schools out of the 568 reporting colleges said they had no burglaries or larcenies.

You can gauge the risks by finding detailed crime statistics at your child’s school on the latest FBI tally for colleges and universities. On these state-by-state lists, burglary and larceny theft are the crimes relevant to dorm insurance. (Not all colleges are listed.) 

Finally, size up the level of maturity and responsibility your child will bring to the more public environment of campus living. Is she too trusting of people or is she street smart? Is he careless with belongings or mindful of their value? An easy mark or a hard target?

Dorm Insurance Options

If you’ve concluded that your child’s belongings face greater risk than you’re comfortable with, tote up the cost of replacing the valuables and shop for the best price from among these options:

• Your homeowners policy will typically cover your children at no extra cost while they’re living in an on-campus residence, says Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communications for the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. But the coverage is likely to be limited, perhaps up to 10 percent of the coverage for your home. So if your policy covers up to $50,000 in losses, your student’s belongings will be covered for only up to $5,000. 

 • A renters insurance policy costing $15 to $30 per month on average, depending on the state, will be necessary if your child lives in an apartment off-campus because your homeowners insurance won’t extend there. Premiums vary based on the amount of coverage needed.  You can also purchase a college renters policy, which is specifically designed for off-campus living. Some colleges offer referrals to providers for this coverage, or you can purchase it directly through GradGuard. You can also check online quotes for renters insurance. 

• A dorm insurance policy may be your best option because deductibles are as low as $25 vs. $500 to $2,000 on home insurance policies. And your home coverage should really be reserved for bigger claims involving damage to the structure and contents, not for smaller losses like a stolen computer. Often offered as part of enrollment, this coverage might cost $140 a year for a $5,000 policy with a $25 deductible. Two companies in this field that are rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau are Arthur J. Gallagher and National Student Services

• A renters or homeowners policy “floater” or endorsement may be necessary if you want to make sure that very high-value possessions, such as computers, are covered.