In most cases, college students are covered under their parents' homeowners insurance. That means if your kid’s computer is stolen from their dorm room, your home insurance can help cover the cost of a new one. If they accidentally injure someone or cause damage to school property, your policy’s personal liability coverage can cover the cost of medical expenses or property repairs.
But coverage for college students has its limits, too. Some insurers will require the student to live on campus (like a dorm) and be under a certain age in order to be eligible for coverage. Most insurers also have limits to how much they’ll pay out for property damage or theft that happens away from the insured residence.
Burglary accounts for roughly a third of criminal incidents on college campuses, so it’s important to be aware of how your kid’s belongings are covered while they’re away at school. 
Homeowners insurance covers personal property (clothes, electronics, appliances) both on and away from the property. This coverage can extend to your kid’s belongings while they’re in college
Most policies have lower coverage limits on belongings that are damaged or stolen “off premises”, or away from the insured property. This limit is usually 10% of the personal property coverage limit in your policy
If your college student moves off campus, homeowners insurance won’t cover their belongings any longer
Off-campus students should consider renters insurance. Renters insurance is typically cheap and can protect college students in the same way as homeowners insurance
How does homeowners insurance cover college students?
College students are generally covered by their parents’ homeowners insurance in two important ways: it covers damage or theft of their personal belongings, and it covers personal liability if the student is responsible for property damage or injury to a third party.
Personal property coverage: Helps cover the cost of repairing or replacing your belongings (computers, TVs, furniture) if they’re stolen or damaged by a covered peril like fire or weather damage. This coverage also extends to property owned by other family members in the household, including students who are away at college. If the student meets the criteria for coverage in your specific policy, their belongings will likely be covered by your policy.
Personal liability coverage: If you or a family member in your household are found legally responsible (aka liable) for another person’s injury or damaged property, this coverage will pay out for damages (medical bills, legal defense, property repairs). Personal liability coverage typically extends to students while they’re at college.
If your college student’s dorm is broken into, or their bike is jacked from a bike rack on campus, you can file a claim with your insurance company to reimburse you for the stolen property. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to have a police report handy to provide evidence of the crime.
You’ll also need to be aware of your homeowners insurance deductible, which is the portion of the loss you’re responsible for covering before your insurance kicks in. If your deductible is more than the value of the property that was damaged or stolen, then you won’t be able to file a claim.
Say $1,200 worth of electronics are stolen from your kid’s dorm, and your policy deductible is $1,500. If you were to file a home insurance claim, it would likely be denied since the insured loss ($1,200) is less than the amount you’re responsible for paying on the claim ($1,500). If the claim was for $1,700 of stolen property, you’d get $200 back from your insurer, since the deductible is subtracted from the insured loss before you’re reimbursed.
Homeowners insurance coverage limits for college students
Homeowners insurance often extends to your child’s belongings while they’re at school, but there are limitations to coverage for belongings away from the insured property. There are certain cases where a college student may not be covered by their parent’s policy at all.
Homeowners insurance provides limited “off-premises” coverage on personal belongings. Generally, any property that is damaged or stolen away from your home is only covered up to 10% of the personal property coverage limit in your policy. That means if you have $100,000 in personal property coverage, belongings away from the home have up to $10,000 in coverage.
If the off-premises coverage limit in your policy isn’t high enough to cover your kid’s belongings, check with your insurer to see if it’s possible to purchase higher limits of coverage.
Your student may not be covered if they live off campus
Some insurers have coverage requirements for college students, including:
They must live on campus or in university-sanctioned housing
They must be a full-time student at the university
They must be under a certain age, like 24 or 25
If your kid lives off campus or is older than the required age, they likely won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance.
Your policy may provide limited liability coverage
Standard homeowners insurance includes liability coverage of anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000, but your insurer may only agree to pay out a fraction of that for liability incidents involving your kid while they’re away at college. Check with your insurer to see if these limitations apply to your policy.
Certain valuables have low limits of liability
A basic policy has limits to how much it will pay out for certain categories of expensive valuables. Jewelry and fine furs typically have a limit of liability of $1,500 in the event of theft. Electronic devices (phones, watches, video games systems) may have a similarly low limit of liability, which is the maximum amount an insurer will pay out for certain categories of belongings. If your kid is bringing a laptop and other expensive items to college, consider increasing the coverage limits on those belongings by purchasing scheduled personal property coverage.
Should college students have renters insurance?
College students often are not eligible for coverage under their parent’s homeowners insurance if they’re above a certain age or if they move off campus. In those cases, they’ll want to consider their own renters or dorm insurance.
Like home insurance, renters insurance includes coverage for personal belongings and personal liability. If a tenant’s off-campus house burns down, renters insurance can also cover temporary housing expenses while they find permanent housing accommodations.
Renters insurance is cheap, costing as little as $10 a month with deductibles low as $100. Some insurance companies, like GradGaurd, specialize in “dorm” insurance. Dorm insurance is basically a renters insurance policy but catered toward college students, with low deductible options and no special limit of liability for expensive electronics.