Requiring college students to have insurance might sound like an impossible feat. But not for the University of South Carolina. Students living in on-campus housing are required to have personal property and liability insurance. That's been the status quo for over the past 10 years.
Initial challenges with requiring insurance
Students and parents didn't give much pushback about the insurance requirement, since it's been around for a while. Whether students choose to rely on a parent's homeowners insurance policy for coverage, or purchase a separate renters policy is up to them. But there were still some challenges.
For one, international students had difficulty obtaining insurance, according to Gay DeBarbieris, Associate Director of Administrative Operations. Administrators tried a number of things in the past to handle the issues, such as collecting policy numbers and creating spreadsheets, but DeBarbieris says that was impossible to manage. The school was looking for a better management system while trying to remedy the costly reimbursement process that followed severe flooding and damages.
Finding the simple student-focused solution
Since personal property and liability insurance is an expectation of living on-campus at the university, administrators wanted to find a policy geared toward students that they could recommend to make it easy to obtain coverage.
The University of South Carolina became a GradGuard partner in 2016. Doing so doesn't mean students are required to purchase a policy from GradGuard, but they are presented the option to do so when acknowledging their housing agreement and the terms that include obtaining personal property and liability insurance.
Integration with StarRez captures students' attention
When the school integrated GradGuard's Renters Insurance to their existing StarRez housing portal, that helped students understand that it's something administrators find important. After students make their room selection for on-campus housing, a page pops up reminding them they need some sort of insurance, giving them the option to proceed with GradGuard if they'd like. An easy way to think about it is how the option to purchase travel insurance pops up while buying an airplane ticket. "We wouldn't put this on an entire page and devote this much time and energy to it if it wasn't something we needed students to at least think about," LeAnne Ryan, Assistant Director of Administrative Information Systems said.
The goal of the integrated software is to get students to spend a moment thinking about possible incidents that may happen in student housing.
"Let's think about the person down the hall, or the person above you, who runs their bathtub in the apartment at midnight and forgets to turn it off," Ryan said. "That did happen, by the way, at another institution. They turned their bathtub on at midnight for a bath and fell asleep in their bed, and didn't wake up until the water was in the entire apartment."
The idea isn't to use scare tactics to try to get students to think about insurance, but rather to inform them about situations that have happened before and are common in student housing, such as floods, fires, and theft. "It's not just about what you think you will do, it's about how do you safeguard your items?" Ryan said. "As much as we can sympathize with you, we're not able to fix it. So take the two minutes that it takes to look at these GradGuard pages." Some students might initially think they don't have anything valuable worth protecting, but when they add up the cost of their textbooks, laptop, bike, clothing, and shoes, that's a lot of money. By having insurance, students know that if someone who lives down the hall from them does something that's going to damage their personal property, they have something to protect them.
Valuable student support is little work for administrators
Everyone is looking for ways to cut costs and save money during the pandemic. Budgets are tight and priorities might be different from campus to campus, but consider how your priorities might help students. Renters Insurance should be on your list because it's another way to show you care about your students by saying they need to have a way to protect themselves and their personal belongings.
GradGuard's Renters Insurance Highlights:
- Affordability - Compared to other student fees, when students see the minor renters insurance fee that's required to keep their belongings safe, that peace of mind is worth it.
- Easy to understand - For students, parents, and administrators to know what's required, the benefits of GradGuard, and how to opt-in or decline coverage.
- Provides a service to your students you can't personally provide - If students can't pay for the damages they cause, they may leave school and you'll never see that money.
For schools who are looking for a solution to costly student-caused damages, DeBarbieris and Ryan recommend GradGuard.
"It probably didn't even take an hour to come in, talk to us, work with LeAnne, get it in the portal, get it set up properly, and you're done for the academic year," DeBarbieris said.
In a time of so much financial uncertainty, providing support to your students and families doesn't have to be difficult. Integrating with StarRez or your existing housing portal makes the process even easier. GradGuard's Renters Insurance is a simple, student-focused solution that gives students and families the opportunity to understand the risks of living on campus, and the benefits of protecting themselves with a policy. It's clear from the success of the program at the University of South Carolina that students and administrators are able to prevent financial losses.