Renters insurance is not a new concept for Rider University. Roberta Butler has been working at the private university in Lawrence Township, New Jersey for the past 13 years. In all her time as the Associate Dean of Residence Life, Rider has maintained a partnership with a college renters insurance provider.
Little results with a previous provider
In her role, Butler manages all things from heads to beds, to meal plans, to housing assignments and contracts. With the school's previous renters insurance provider, brochures and fliers were passed out to students and families at orientation, she said. But not much more beyond that was done to inform them about the benefits of students having renters insurance.
As a result, very few students opted to purchase insurance. Thus, Rider has paid for the cost of student-caused damages over the years, Butler says.
"It hasn't been a significant amount of money we paid out, as an institution," Butler said. "Money for students who have had damages either through floods, fires, things going missing."
Even though it hasn't been a devastating financial burden, taking on the cost of student-caused damages can impact other areas of an institution's budget and resources.
The search for better options for students
Butler kept an eye out for other options for renters insurance, and that's when she recalled previous conversations about GradGuard.
Rider uses StarRez, which is one of GradGuard's exclusive technology partners. Butler saw GradGuard popup in the portal and recalled brief conversations with colleagues at other schools who use StarRez and GradGuard's integrated application.
They were talking about the housing application integration where students can apply for or decline renters insurance through the portal, Butler said.
"I was like, 'Ooh, kinda cool,'" she said.
Finding a solution within the software they already use
Butler started looking into a GradGuard partnership and what the benefits would be for their families and institution. Working with other schools in the area was a plus, such as The College of New Jersey, which is one of GradGuard's partner schools for tuition insurance.
She started to notice some big differences between companies, especially when compared to GradGuard, which provides an integrated, active choice option and has an exclusive student endorsement.
Butler says school staff took steps to ensure that offering a tech-enabled active choice renters insurance program to students and families would not be sending the wrong messages, such as making purchasing a policy mandatory or suggesting the fact that there's an out-of-control problem with damages and theft on campus.
"Reminding them that renters insurance has always been a thing for us," Butler said. "The company that we're using, and the way that we're providing students with the information is changing."
Once Butler got the green light from her administration to move forward with GradGuard, she says it was a smooth and painless process to get the program integrated and launched.
Partnering with GradGuard: Integration and beyond
Rider officially partnered with GradGuard in June 2021 and soft-launched the active choice offer for the fall semester. The university was already halfway through its room selection process by the time they were able to partner with GradGuard, so they weren't able to get the offer as part of the housing application process. The full embedded feature is all set up for a fall 2022 launch.
Even without the full launch of the program, Rider saw more students than ever before purchase renters insurance.
- 163 students protected with renters insurance in the first year with GradGuard
- 3 students protected with renters insurance in one semester with the previous provider
"Integration has been a game-changer in terms of the number of students that have signed up," Butler said.
Some parents did not know Rider previously offered renters insurance, according to Butler. With GradGuard, it's clear the coverage is not mandatory, and thus Rider hasn't heard any negative feedback from students or parents.
Recommendations for college administrators
A partnership with GradGuard doesn't mean school staff is expected to act as sales representatives or know the ins and outs of the program. It's quite the opposite! GradGuard provides marketing copy and materials to schools to make it easy for administrators to upload and share. Butler says she appreciates that aspect of the partnership.
"It's a kit," Butler said. "I didn't have to worry about what language I should use on our website. What fliers, postings, or do I have to come up with my own infographics? I love the fact that it's a complete kit for us and we're able to use it in multiple ways."
Rider sends out information about the Renters Protection Program as part of the housing confirmation email, according to Butler.
"The fact that you guys do that for us, versus us, having to figure that out, or us having to copy and paste information, I really, really appreciate that," Butler said. "It really is smooth sailing."
Butler recommends GradGuard to other institutions looking for a fast, seamless, no-cost way to protect their students and belongings. And by fast, it's really fast. The integrated offer is turned on in a matter of minutes.
"If you're at an institution and you get to make that decision, this is the smoothest decision that you'll ever make," Butler said. "Honestly and truthfully, at the end of the day, 30 minutes tops. Anybody who is worried about the time it'll take to do integration -- that's not a worry. It's a smooth process and it's fast, quick, and easy. I can't say enough good things, and I've only been with you all for a short period of time."
Renters insurance isn't a new thing at Rider University; integrated renters insurance is. More students than ever before at Rider are now protected with renters insurance, and that's because of its embedded active-choice offer in their StarRez housing portal. Using existing software and at no cost to the school, personal property, and liability protection is just a couple of clicks away for the student body. When more students have renters insurance, that means fewer payouts for student-caused damages, fewer headaches trying to find out who is covered and who isn't, and more time for housing folks to spend on other student-focused activities. It's a win-win all around.