NEW YORK (MainStreet)—In the 1960s, dropping out of college was a rite of passage--an attempt at self-assertion, re-invention and, lest we forget, the chance to do your own thing. Bill Gates dropped out. So did Steve Jobs.
Today's drop-outs also include those with an entrepreneurial vision, but they are just as likely to be charting a course to financial ruin.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that nearly 50% of US students who enroll in four-year degrees don't stay long enough to get degrees, and they're dropping out at a time when there has been a four-fold increase in the cost of college relative to household income, according to Kevin Carey, education policy program at the New American Foundation—and many other observers.
The vast majority have student loans. So turn-of–the-century drop-outs and would-be drop-outs are looking for work-arounds. If you have to leave—and can handicap that possibility in advance--is there an insurance policy you can buy to defray those sunk costs?
There are and there are more than one, but they seem to be skewed toward people who want to stay enrolled but are forced to leave for medical reasons rather than those who can't hack it academically or are too cool for school. Among them:
- A.W.G. Dewar, Inc. - A.W.G. Dewar's Tuition Refund Plan provides up to 100% coverage for medically necessary withdrawals at more than 180 colleges and 1,000 private elementary and secondary schools.
- Education Insurance Plans (EIP) - EIP's Tuition Guardian product provides $5,000 to $25,000 of coverage per semester.
- Markel Insurance Company - In addition to 100% coverage for medical events, it covers 75% for involuntary coverage of the tuition payer, 75% for academic and disciplinary dismissal and 60% for voluntary withdrawal.
Many industry observers believe that going the tuition insurance policy route has limited value. In the meantime, colleges themselves have gotten into the act. New York University offers a tuition refund insurance policy that complements NYU's existing refund policy, although it is limited to a covered medical withdrawal, which allows students to receive up to a 100% of their tuition.
"We are pleased to offer undergraduate students a Tuition Refund Insurance Program," an NYU spokesperson said on its Website, adding that Sallie Mae, the private student loan originator, is in on the game also.
"Refunds are paid by Sallie Mae Insurance Services to the University for credit to the student account," NYU said. "Outstanding loans, grants, scholarships would be paid before any remaining funds are refunded to the student."
Sallie Mae is not new to tuition refund insurance--it, too, protects students if they unexpectedly have to drop out because of medical issues. Sallie's $249 per year premium covers 100% of lost tuition—but with a cap of only $5,000 per semester.
"With the average private college tuition in excess of $38,000, that leaves a sizable shortfall," Joseph Orsolini , president of College Aid Planners, Inc. told Business Insider in January.
Orsolini decribed a student client who was bitten by a spider in her dorm room and eventually had to drop out after going into a comma for three days. "This type of plan would have come in handy," he said.
--Written by John Sandman for MainStreet