Property & Casualty insurance coverage for higher education has always been complex. There is a split between large vs small, not-for-profit vs for-profit & state run vs private. Many small private schools have programs ranging from no deductibles to small deductibles to group buying programs. Many large state run institutions rely on large deductibles and self-insurance.
There is one factor that most have in common – diversity of exposure. Each school or department is like a different company with rules, hierarchy and status. This makes it tough to control for a risk manager or the individual with insurance responsibility. Each school needs to undergo its own risk identification process. Below is a list of “hot topics” affecting all aspects of higher education.
- Employment Practice Liability Suits – Many schools have experienced some sort of financial downturn over the last decade resulting in a “Reduction in Force”. Many times these were done with long tenured professors being replaced by younger staff. This has led to a significant amount of wrongful termination suits. Following organizational protocols and proper diligence is key prior to taking such action.
Other forms of EPL suits are also prevalent – discrimination, sexual harassment, failure to hire, failure to promote, etc. We have seen the number of EPL suits dramatically increase in the last decade as a result of the large increase in EEOC staff. This has allowed more cases to be examined and pursued, leading to an increase in EPL suits.
- Coverage – Coverage is available in the standard market. Price and deductible level are the biggest challenges. Deductible levels tend to be higher in certain states, such as California.
- Student travel – More and more schools are offering hands on experiences in other states and countries. It is important to have strict rules against student’s driving owned vehicles and ensuring proper vehicle maintenance. Another concern is proper coverage outside the US, where most domestic insurance coverage does not apply. Many times the itinerary is changed year to year. Coverage specific mostly to staff, but also students in some situations. For example, the geology department may decide to coordinate a two-day trip in another state to explore rock formations. These type of activities need vetting and approval prior to roll out.
- Coverage – All of these items are available in the standard market for insurance. The challenge is getting the data by department to ensure all activities are properly covered.
- Concussions – Schools with athletic programs should be concerned with athletes getting concussions. While football is the key concern, many folks are surprised to learn that soccer and cheerleading also carry very high risk. Many schools have implemented a vetting system to fully understand number and severity of concussions prior to admittance. There is also sensitivity to treating potential concussions in training and live events.
- Coverage – Many insurers are dialing back coverage. From our experience, there is only one insurer still offering full coverage. Many others are providing coverage only to the percentage of concussions experienced on campus. Even more have eliminated the coverage entirely.
- Online learning – Schools have leveraged online courses to attract students from across the globe adding the concern for cyber security. Higher education is one of the primary targets for cyber-attacks and often times students are the ones doing hacking the system. Michigan State, NYU, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon have all been hacked in the last six months alone. To prevent such attacks schools must have a great IT department with large investments into software and security protocols.
- Coverage – Coverage is available in the standard and excess market. However, cost and deductible could vary significantly depending on underwriting.