GradGuard for Higher Education

2018 Campus Safety Magazine Article

Posted by John Fees on Sep 5, 2018 1:53:34 AM

This article appeared first in the August 2018 Campus Safety Magazine.

New approaches to renters insurance programs are helping protect students and colleges from common risks, such as fire and theft.

Imagine this campus moment: A student decides to find out how automatic sprinkler systems work and holds match to the fusible link setting off the system. Maintenance and the fire department are slow to respond and considerable damage to the property of students and the university results.

If this scenario hasn’t occurred at your campus yet, then consider that in 2015 Clery Act data indicated that 1,926 fires occurred within on-campus student housing.  In addition, FBI crime reports for 2015 reported more than 69,502 property crimes and thefts on campus.

As a result of both the scale and frequency of losses experienced by students, colleges and universities are adopting new approaches to managing this risk through adopting preferred renters insurance programs.  Specifically, schools are taking steps to disclose the limits of institutional liability while also providing a convenient way for each resident to enroll in a renters insurance program that names the institution as a beneficiary of the policy.

Timely 2017 Research Confirms Move to Transfer Risk to Renters Insurance Programs.

A 2017 survey by University Risk Management & Insurance Association is a useful benchmark for campus officials. The survey included 132 responses regarding the handling of property damage to student personal property and university property caused by students.  The key findings of the survey are:

  • Colleges and universities generally do not pay for damage to student property.
  • Institutions may hold the student responsible for damage to the property of other students but are much more likely to do so for damage to institutional property.
  • Colleges and universities are reluctant to involve their property insurance companies when students and their property are involved.

According to the survey author, Glenn Klinksiek, the retired Assistant Vice President & Risk Manager of the University of Chicago, “to state the obvious, the presence of students on campus create risks for colleges and universities.  The risk to institutional and student property is just one.  Instances of loss or damage are likely to occur and sometimes the damage is significant.  These campus fires damaged student and campus property and though less frequently also involve injuries to dozens of students annually. Water damage is also a common occurrence.  One university system identified nearly $6 million of damages in residence halls with only 10 percent of it successfully subrogated against an alternative insurance.”

Housing operators know that student residents are unlikely to be able to afford to pay for the damages they cause.  Although homeowners insurance may sometimes pay for damage caused by students who live in on campus housing, students are never covered in off-campus housing.  Homeowners insurance coverage is highly variable and often subject to high deductibles and the insurer’s claims adjustment practices.  Some campuses have large portions of their residents whose families may not own a home and therefore no insurance.  Or some institutions may require insurance of student in the housing system but students who live outside the system escape the requirement.”

Why Now – More On-Campus Student Housing than Ever Before

According to the College Board, more than 1,237 institutions now guarantee student housing for all freshmen and more than two million students now reside in on-campus housing. In addition, new forms of student housing have been developed to serve the unique needs of specific student populations including international students, graduate students and family housing. 

In many cases, today campuses are managing large portfolios of apartments and multifamily properties.  As a result, it should not be surprising to see the best practices used by off-campus property owners (where according to research by the Multi-Family Housing Association - 84% require residents to maintain personal liability coverage) to transfer the liability & property risk of residents to a HO4 renters insurance policy. 

A 2017 survey published by HigherEdStudy.com of 138 student housing leaders, indicated that 80% of these campuses support a similar requirement for student residents.  The survey also revealed, that 4 in 5 student housing leaders believe that financial losses to students due to the theft or damage of a backpack, computer or bicycle can become a student financial crisis that and disrupt a students’ education.

Turning a Negative Event into a Positive Opportunity

Providing an opportunity for students to enroll in renters insurance prior to moving on campus may turn a bad event – loss to students that a result of theft or damage – into an opportunity for the school to say: “we anticipated this problem and you were provided an opportunity to protect yourself.

According to Bob Soza, President of College Parents of America, "institutions are smart to require their college student residents to consider renters.”  He continued “students cannot often pay for the damages they cause or afford to replace their property that is stolen or damaged. As a result, we recommend that families who can’t afford to replace stolen or damaged property of their student, purchase a low deductible renters insurance policy for about 50. cents a day.

Like many other good ideas that can impact campus safety, getting the attention of students remains a challenge.  Just recommending students consider renters insurance or providing a list of alternatives leads to low levels of participation and student protection.

The most successful campus programs take an approach inspired from behavioral economists, that is discussed in the popular book Nudge, written by University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein.

The truth is that that passive approaches  - links, brochures, and text within a housing contract do not provide any meaningful form of awareness of the limits of institutional liability or protection to residents or institutions. Instead, more schools are implementing an active approach to disclose institutional policies and provide a convenient way to enroll in renters insurance during the leasing process. 

In fact, the most common approach by schools today is to implement a "policy acknowledgment and mandatory consideration" program that features a preferred (non-exclusive) insurance provider. This policy acknowledgment occurs within the leasing process of more than 100 colleges and also provides each resident the ability to voluntarily enroll in a renters insurance program.  This approach provides direct access for risk managers who want to their institution to be a beneficiary of the policy and maintains access to a list of insureds.  

Requiring students to live on campus also creates an unforeseen risk for students and their families.  Because many young adults may not have any insurance to replace their property if it is stolen or damaged or to pay for damages for which they are liable, many schools are now making renters insurance available when students sign their lease. For example, according to Steve Fucci, Vice President of GradGuard, “the University of California at Davis which manages more than 6,000 on campus residents began to offer renters insurance within their leasing process and found that more than 60% of their students chose to protect themselves with renters insurance.”

A Useful “Nudge” that Successfully Transfers Risk & Provides Protection

A case study from Georgia College, a 7,000 student part of the University of Georgia system based in Milledgeville, demonstrates how risk transfer works for both institutions and students. In 2017 an international student attending Georgia College caused an automatic fire sprinkler system to engage setting off the system creating  $103,000 of damage to the property of students and the university.

Fortunately, the student had completed a policy acknowledgement process and purchased a renters insurance policy that contained $5,000 of personal property coverage, $100,000 of liability coverage with a $100 deductible.  As a result, the insurance policy paid the $100,000 of damages caused to the property of the school and other impacted residents.  The student was able to focus on classes and a avoid a collections problem for the student and institution.

Like so many well designed student processes, providing an opportunity for students to easily enroll in a renters insurance program during the leasing process is a smart “nudge” that can easily transfer the risk from the institution and student to a renters insurance policy.

The impact to both an institutions reputation and also to a student’s well-being. Student who suffer a loss to laptops, tablets, clothing, phones and other equipment needed for school, can have a negative impact on both student satisfaction and academic performance.

If your institution is not going to replace stolen or damaged student / resident property, then it is smart to have an electronic verification that you have disclosed the limits of institutional liability. In addition, if you seek to collect for damages caused by students it helps greatly to verify that the liability disclosure made by the institution isn’t just in the small print of the lease or housing contract.  

Lastly, it is useful to note that a growing number of schools mandate or purchase renters insurance coverage for all their campus residents or specific populations such as short-term residents (visiting faculty / short-term camp programs), graduate housing, family housing or international students. 

Next Steps for Campus Officials

Given the growing scope and frequency of losses experienced by students and institutions, it is useful for campus officials and risk managers to ask these questions regarding resident liability and the approach to renters insurance taken by student housing leadership.

  1. How are campus residents actively notified of their liability and the limits of liability of the college or university for losses they may experience due to theft or damages to their personal property?
  2. How can schools transfer the risk caused by students to a renters insurance policy? Be sure to note, that legacy student insurance programs often only provided personal property protection.
  3. If your institution will not replace stolen or damaged property, then it is prudent for schools to identify a convenient and active opportunity to protect students from a financial loss.
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Topics: GradGuard, college renters insurance, renters insurance, Renters Liability, URMIA, Student housing, Campus Safety, Best Practices by Colleges, student risk

URMIA - The Case for Student Renters Insurance 

Posted by John Fees on Mar 20, 2018 6:17:19 PM

I shared this post recently with for the March edition of URMIA Insights - (University Risk Management and Insurance Association).  The message, however, is important for other leaders in higher education and particularly for those in student housing and student financial services. 

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Topics: college renters insurance, Student Benefits, Renting, dorm living, apartment living, Dorm Life, renters insurance, student success, college theft, college fire safety, college life, Student Risk Management, College Life Protected, student risk, Best Practices by Colleges, Higher Education Policy, Renters Liability, insurance, Risk Management, Higher Education, Campus Fire, Student housing, ACUHOI, URMIA

2018 NACUBO SFS - Tuition Refunds & More

Posted by John Fees on Mar 13, 2018 7:03:00 PM

Today it was my pleasure to join Mike Reynolds of Auburn University to present at the annual NACUBO Student Financial Services conference.  It is always good to share the stage with a higher education veteran and true student financial services professional.  Mike and I had some 

We shared our experiences and research regarding:

Common & Emerging Best Practices for Disclosing and Managing Tuition Refunds.  

Our presentation focused on the growing impact/frequency of student medical withdrawals and the increasing cost of the financial losses experienced by institutions and families.  The discussion aimed to 

  • Understand national research / benchmarks for how schools disclose their refund policies & manage student withdrawals 
  • Understand how schools are reducing the costs and risks of administering tuition refund appeals process
  • Understand how schools are implementing tuition insurance programs to reducing the financial losses caused by students withdrawals.

It isn't always possible for schools to afford the cost of attending an industry conference in person, so I am pleased to share the slides from our discussion through the link below. 

Download the NACUBO SFS Slides 

The slides provide a summary of the industry research and also a review of the experience at Auburn University and other schools who have chosen to embrace a fully transparent approach to disclosing and managing tuition refunds. Given the growth in student medical withdrawals it is prudent for schools that do not provide 100% refunds to provide notice of their institutions refund policy.   

The research contained in the presentation provides a useful baseline for schools to benchmark their own experience in managing the growing cost of refunds.   You don't need to read the research or the slides, however, if you take a moment to consider the following conclusions of the presentation. 

If you are serious about reducing the cost of student withdrawals to your institution and the families you serve, then we recommend that you consider the following practical next steps:

Recommended Next Steps

1. Evaluate your institutions refund policy.

2. How are students provided “notice” of the refund policy?

3. Is your current refund policy administered objectively?

- Avoid subjective & arbitrary administration

4. What is the cost of administering your current policy?

- Confirm you do not accept student health records without a HIPAA release.

5. Adopt a fully transparent disclosure process and offer tuition insurance protection.

 

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Topics: student success, Student Life, tuition refund insurance, Tuition Insurance, student risk, Transparency, tuition refunds, Tuition Protection Plan, business operations,, nacubo,, Bursars,, Higher Education, Student Benefits, college parents, Refund Policy, Financial Literacy, student health, Best Practices by Colleges, college refunds,

Reducing the Cost of College Student Withdrawals 

Posted by John Fees on Mar 4, 2018 2:44:28 PM

If you are like many college and university officials, you are facing a growing number of student withdrawals.  

Student withdrawals are a costly event for everyone. Institutions depend on the funds that students pay in tuition and fees. Students and their families may suffer a financial loss as well as from the trauma of unexpected event such as an illness or injury that disrupts an academic term.

Our research indicates that very few schools provide 100% refunds to students who complete a withdrawal mid-term. Even when a hardship exists such as the death of a parent or substance abuse incident it is uncommon for colleges to provide 100% refunds.

As a result, we are pleased to announce that the GradGuard Tuition Protection Plan from Allianz Global Assistance is now available to schools who are looking to provide refunds to students who are forced to withdraw from school due to illnesses, injuries or other  covered reason.  

The Tuition Protection Plan is offered only to school partners who enter into a non-exclusive participation agreement.  This agreement assures your students that they will receive the enhanced coverages schools expect and students need.

Speak with us to learn more about why our modern tuition insurance programs are an important student benefit and a valuable form of protection.  

Learn More About GradGuard's Tuition Protection Plan from Allianz. 

 

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Topics: student success, Student Life, student health, tuition refund insurance, Tuition Insurance, student risk, Transparency, tuition refunds

2017 New & Improved - College Renters Insurance

Posted by John Fees on Mar 31, 2017 7:07:06 PM

I love the spring. The last day of March, however, brings the reality that Major League Baseball spring training is ending and the hot Arizona summer will soon be upon us.

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Topics: ACUHOI, renters insurance, student risk, Student Risk Management, college renters insurance, Student housing, college theft, college risk, business operations,

Reducing the Cost of Withdrawals

Posted by GradGuard on Nov 14, 2016 12:09:44 PM

If you are like many college and university officials, you are facing a growing number of student withdrawals.  

Student withdrawals are a costly event for everyone. Institutions depend on the funds that students pay in tuition and fees. Students and their families may suffer a financial loss as well as from the trauma of unexpected event such as an illness or injury that disrupts an academic term.

Our research indicates that very few schools provide 100% refunds to students who complete a withdrawal mid-term. Even when a hardship exists such as the death of a parent or substance abuse incident it is uncommon for colleges to provide 100% refunds.

As a result, we are pleased to announce that the GradGuard Tuition Protection Plan is now available to schools who are looking to provide refunds to students who have to withdraw from school due to a covered reason.  

The Tuition Protection Plan is offered only to school partners who enter into a non-exclusive participation agreement.  This agreement assures your students that they will receive the enhanced coverages schools expect (coverage for addiction, high risk activities or death of a student that lead to a student withdrawal) and a lower price.

Learn More About GradGuard's Tuition Protection Plan from Allianz. 

 

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Topics: student success, Student Life, student health, tuition refund insurance, Tuition Insurance, student risk, Transparency, tuition refunds

The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn't Student Debt, It's Students Who Don't Graduate

Posted by John Fees on Nov 2, 2016 11:55:26 AM

This is a follow-on to a LinkedIn post I created in 2014 and Titled: The Real Issue: Failing to Graduate is Costly. The statement remains even truer today. The National Center for Education Statistics confirms that the "6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a bachelor's degree at a 4-year degree-granting institution in fall 2008 was 60 percent."

What has changed is an awareness and a commitment by leaders in higher education such as Arizona State University President, Dr. Michael Crow who recently published a noteworthy article titled. "The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn't Student Debt, It's Students Who Don't Graduate"

Dr. Crow correctly argues "the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish. Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off....In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped."

That statement is consistent with the 2014 quote from the New York Times "The vastly bigger problem is the hundreds of thousands of people who emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. For them, college is akin to a house that they had to make the down payment on but can’t live in."

As an Arizona State University graduate and active in increasing college access and completion rates through College Success Arizona, I am pleased to read about the success of unique programs that Dr. Crow highlights such as eAdvisor and Major Maps. In addition, he reminds us of the value of corporate partnerships such as the College Achievement Plan created between ASU and Starbucks that aims to help Starbuck's employees their degrees.

In addition to the innovative approaches ASU has taken, more can be done to improve efforts to promote greater student success. Three specific topics that interest me that are worth greater discussion.

  • Understanding Pipeline issues - specifically the academic readiness of students who enroll in college with insufficient skills to complete college level requirements. Articulating these common expectations is not just about a test score but about making sure that national curriculums meet international standards for literacy and numeracy.
  • Understanding Family support - Academic achievement often reflects more complex factors such family socio-economic and educational attainment. Research from College Parents of America (where I serve as a Director) indicates that students with family support are more likely to graduate than those that have little to none.
  • Understanding Risks that can Disrupt an Education - Next to the ability to afford college and complete the academic work, students report that "life-got-in-the-way" as the third reason why they may not complete a degree program. Growing efforts by schools to anticipate and provide protection from these unexpected events is noteworthy. Three small examples include efforts to provide robust residence life programs, student health, and counseling programs.
 

It is useful to broaden the discussion regarding student success and to give greater focus to the larger, more enduring problem of college completion. This is a big part of why Bill Suneson and I founded GradGuard. Our mission is to promote greater student success by helping to protect the investment students and their families make in a higher education.

GradGuard's student benefit programs help students and their families overcome the financial losses that can result from student illnesses, injuries, addiction, the death of a tuition payer as well as theft and even property damages.

Thankfully, more than 200 schools recognize the value of providing GradGuard to protect their students and provide convenient opportunities to enroll in our Tuition Protection Plan and College Renters Insurance Plan to help reduce the financial losses that may otherwise interrupt a student's path towards graduation.

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Topics: student risk, Student Risk Management, college risk, student success, college completion, college life, leadership, Best Practices by Colleges

ACUHOI -  Business Operations Conference

Posted by John Fees on Oct 11, 2016 9:00:14 PM

It was wonderful to see so many colleagues last week attending the annual ACUHO-I Business Operations conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Arizona is home for many of our GradGuard team so it was terrific to host our many school clients near our headquarters in Phoenix.

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Topics: college theft, renters insurance, Student Risk Management, student risk, Student housing, ACUHOI, college renters insurance, college risk, business operations,

No Need for Hoverboards at ACUHO-I or on Campus

Posted by John Fees on Jul 10, 2016 2:38:01 PM

Our GradGuard team is looking forward to the annual ACUHO-I conference this week in Seattle.  The annual ACUHO-I meeting is the best gathering of leaders in student housing and residence life.  Given the value of residential life to increasing college completion rates, GradGuard invests in supporting this community of higher education and housing professionals.

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Topics: renters insurance, Student Risk Management, student risk, ACUHOI

Helping Schools Protect Students

Posted by Steve Fucci on Apr 21, 2016 3:12:37 PM

In our work with college and university officials we often hear two topics that are a great concern.  Officials are concerned about bad press regarding student crime and campus safety.  They also worry about media coverage regarding the growing cost of college. 

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Topics: student success, renters insurance, student risk, Student housing

College Life Protected

Insights on student risk

GradGuard for Higher Education examines how unexpected losses can affect student success, bringing you the latest in best practices and trends for safety on and off campus.

Here you'll learn more about:

  • Risks on and off campus
  • How schools are using benefits programs to protect and attract students
  • Effects of loss on student outcomes

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