Communal living spaces and a younger population may be a contributing factor to new surges in COVID-19 cases on college campuses.


Homes, cars, boats, vacations, events and even pets — most of our significant investments involve some sort of insurance.

What about college tuition?

Although it’s not extremely popular, tuition insurance is a thing — and it could help students if they become ill from COVID-19.

If students develop a bad case of the virus, it could sideline them for weeks or months, rendering them unable to complete the semester — and forcing them to withdraw from school.

It’s an expensive risk: In New Jersey, annual tuition and fees at public four-year institutions for full-time students average out to roughly for $14,000 in-state tuition and $24,000 for out-of-state tuition. For private schools, the average is $34,000, according to the state higher education department — not to mention room, board and other fees. Some insurance plans can include room and board, as well. 

“Tuition insurance has always been a tough sell, but it can be more advisable now than pre-pandemic,” said Robert Farrington, founder of the personal finance website “However, you need to understand what’s covered by your policy and whether it’s worth it.” 

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Grab-and-go meals, fewer choices: Here’s how campus dining will look at NJ colleges this fall

OPINION: NJ students return to college campuses with anxiety, frustration — and hope | Opinion

NEW RULES: New Jersey releases guidelines for gyms reopening

Although the process varies among schools, withdrawal generally becomes effective the date a student provides official notice to the institution. Failure to attend class does not equal withdrawal.

Schools typically have withdrawal refund policies, but they’re often limited.

Most schools offer full refunds to students only if they withdraw before the first day of the semester. Then, the amount of refund offered drops in 20% or 25% increments across the next four or five weeks.

After that, no refunds are available, and much of the semester remains — plenty of time for something to go wrong with a virus that causes some patients to develop severe symptoms rapidly.

Tuition insurance can make up for that gap, experts say. It typically covers nonrefundable tuition and fees if a student is forced to withdraw due to a qualifying reason, such as medical disability, emotional or mental disability or death, Farrington said.

Story continues below the gallery


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

Nearly a dozen New Jersey schools, including Rutgers University, Ramapo College and Princeton University, partner with the tuition insurance company GradGuard. The decade-old tuition insurance company serves around 300 colleges and universities and more than 650,000 students.

Liberty Mutual Insurance and A.W.G. Dewar also offer tuition insurance.

“No matter where a student attends college, families should not expect a refund,” said John Fees, GradGuard co-founder. “College families are smart to be vigilant and to ask their college or university how they will handle a student withdrawal.”

GradGuard doesn’t typically cover pandemics, but Fees said the company made an exception to its policy to accommodate students who withdraw after contracting COVID-19.

“Preexisting medical conditions are covered when the student can verify that they were well enough to start classes and there is no apparent reason to anticipate that they would not be able to complete the academic term,” he added.

Reader — covering our local communities takes time and resources. Help us better support your community by becoming a subscriber today — =”left”> see our special offers.

Policies don’t cover lack of attendance due to fear or cessation of school operations, but they can help with family travel or accessing care tied to the medical issue that caused withdrawal, depending on the student, Farrington said.

Tuition insurance cost varies based on school. For most schools partnered with GradGuard, coverage costs roughly $106 per term for $10,000 in coverage, Fees said.

Still, Farrington said, most students and their families are more concerned about whether to invest in college at all this year than whether they should purchase tuition insurance.

“I’m not seeing much of an uptick in questions around tuition insurance,” he said, “as most people don’t even know it exists.”

Alexis Shanes is a local reporter for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @alexisjshanes 

Read or Share this story: