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Parent to Parent: Expenses, Banking, and Insurance

Submitted by on July 31, 2012 – 4:27 pm2 Comments

It’s that time of year again, when parents of new students begin to think about the transition to college. Al Friedman, parent of Sam 06F and Rachel F09, has compiled lots of advice both from his and his kids’ experiences and from others who’ve contributed to this discussion before. This week, comments on expenses, banking, and insurance are posted. Additional information from the College is italicized.

The main expenses students encounter are food, textbooks, and miscellaneous expenses such as movie tickets or clothing. Every family has a different way of dealing with these expenses which come up during the year; some choose to set up a credit card with their student, some choose to give their student an allowance, etc.

In addition to serving as a library card and meal card, your kid’s ID card is basically a bookstore charge card. This is great when they need to buy books or supplies, but the store also carries some groceries. We started finding odd charges to our account, which consisted of a daily snack. I only note this so that you can make sure that you have an agreement with your kid over who ends up paying for those charges. Suffice to say that we never had that initial chat.

Our kids have accounts w/ Bank of America, but our son says it is somewhat inconvenient. The closest branch is in Amherst, so he had to take a bus to conduct transactions or use a B of A ATM. Instead, he used the on-campus ATM or the one at Atkins store. Both involved extra non-B of A transaction fees that can add up. I don’t know about you, but we felt it was important to be able to keep an eye on our son’s spending habits, and it was really easy to do that with B of A online services. We also have our own B of A checking account, so it takes less than a half-hour for a transfer from our account to end up in his account. I guess a local bank might be more convenient, but I wonder if it is worth it when your kid comes home and nobody will take his checks. I’m told that work-study students can now use direct deposit for their pay, which was the biggest issue for our son – he didn’t want to go to Amherst to deposit his paycheck. If you haven’t looked, here is Hampshire’s Banking page which includes a list of all the local banks.

Local banks setup outside the Robert Crown Center from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Opening Day, and students can open accounts then.

There is a UMassFive College Federal Credit Union ATM machine located in the College’s post office. Another ATM machine, affiliated with Easthampton Savings Bank, is located across the street at Atkins Market. This ATM is free to use for those with bank accounts in the SUM ATM network, but only Easthampton Savings Bank members can make deposits here.

Students can find more information about Direct Deposit on the Student Employment Intranet page (requires log-in).

Unless your student is in the sciences, it seems like their texts will generally cost less than at more traditional colleges. Still, they could save some money by checking online book sites for their books.

The Hampstore (bookstore) now offers some books for rent.

Many classes at Hampshire do have a strong focus on reading, even when it’s not reading from one central textbook. This means that students may find themselves buying several smaller novels for a class, which can be almost as expensive as buying a large textbook. Students who choose to take language classes or Five College classes, might also find themselves running into more “traditional” textbook expenses. However, it is usually possible to find used copies of the texts, which can help cut costs. Some students find it’s beneficial to take advantage of the Five College library system to find books for classes (if for example it’s a novel that they know they won’t need for the whole semester, and can get away with checking it out from the library for the month or so they need it for).

You can apply for a waiver from paying for Hampshire student medical insurance, as long as you have a family policy that provides adequate coverage for your child. The period to apply for a waiver ends in mid-August. I missed the waiver period one year and had to engage in a battle with the insurance carrier (Koster) to avoid having to pay for the student insurance. Be prepared with all your insurance provider info, such as policy #, type of insurance (PPO, HMO, etc.), expiration date of policy, claims address and phone #, etc.

The deadline this year is August 12. See the Student Medical Insurance page for complete details.

We purchased the CSI property insurance for the contents of our son’s dorm room. It seemed like a good deal for the premium cost.

Insurance information is on the Student Risk section of the Five College Risk Management Website. The property insurance recommendations, including information on CSI, are here >>

Looking for more information? Ask Al and other parents a question in the comments* below.

Are you a seasoned pro and have advice for families of new students? Join the conversation and share the tips and tricks you’ve learned over the years!

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