You can add coronavirus to the list of anxieties facing students heading off to colleges and universities around the nation in the coming days.
Many campuses will start online-only or stay virtual the entire semester. But students are still at risk of catching COVID-19 in other places. If they do get sick, they may miss a lot of class -- and be unable to finish their classes.
That's where tuition insurance can help. Many insurance companies and even some universities offer tuition coverage, which can pay for some or all expenses if a student is forced to withdraw for health reasons.
You likely won't find a "drop out for any reason" policy, though. Tuition insurance policies reviewed by NBC Bay Area all require a medical reason for withdrawal, and documentation to back it up. One policy spells it out this way: “The illness, injury, or medical condition must be disabling enough to make a reasonable person completely withdraw from school.”
Policies vary in price, depending on how much coverage is wanted. We found a range from less than $200 to more than $700 per year.
Even if you do get sick, you may not necessarily need insurance to get some of your tuition back. We asked several Bay Area universities about their policies for students who get sick with COVID-19 and can't finish the semester.
San Jose State University told us it will consider medical withdrawals on a case-by-case basis.
"If a San José State University student contracts COVID-19 during the school year and is unable to finish classes, we would treat this as we do any other case where a student may have to withdraw for medical reasons," a spokesperson said via email. "Enrollment Management would work with the Bursar’s Office to make a determination about reimbursements, and with faculty to consider academic accommodations. Each case is different and we work with each student on an individual basis."
The University of California, Berkeley, said its existing medical withdrawal policy would also cover such cases.
"Any student can take a medical withdrawal," a spokesperson told us. "COVID-19 falls under that category, and one does get a fee refund."
Before the fall semester begins, check with your university or college's office of admissions or student life, and ask bout medical withdrawal policies. That can help you decide if tuition insurance is right for you.