VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — No matter when it happens, sending a child off to college is a big, exciting, and sometimes scary moment. 

During the pandemic, the ‘scary’ part can be amplified, with some parents wondering if their kids will fall ill, and, if they do, whether they’ll be able to finish the semester.  

Those concerns have led to more parents and students exploring the option of tuition insurance.   

“It’s still not really a well-known term but it’s catching on, especially as the pandemic brought new attention to it,” said Natalie Tarangioli, the communications and marketing director for GradGuard, one of just a few tuition insurance providers.  

“There was a big concern right around this time last year for students and families preparing to send their kids back and we did see many schools adopt this program,” Tarangioli said. 

COVID-19 wasn’t the primary concern for Virginia Beach resident Eden Schiano and her parents, who bought tuition insurance before sending her off to Virginia Commonwealth University last fall.  

“I had struggled with an eating disorder for probably most of high school,” Schiano said. “The summer before senior year it was really bad […] and then by mid-October, I was hospitalized.” 

The pandemic complicated Schiano’s therapy and recovery, so her parents were hesitant for her to move out and attend college. 

She pushed them to let her go. 

“My doctor was the one who said, ‘There’s this thing called tuition insurance you can get so if she goes and can’t handle it, she doesn’t feel like she has to keep going to save that money,’” Schiano said.  

Her first semester at VCU started out well, but between the demands of learning virtually, making new friends and keeping up with treatment, Schiano became overwhelmed and started to lose weight. 

The weight loss became concerning enough the Schiano medically withdrew from VCU, knowing she wouldn’t carry the guilt of losing thousands of her parents’ dollars.  

“[Tuition insurance] took so much weight off of my shoulders,” She said. “It didn’t feel like a huge burden to be taking care of myself.” 

Tarangioli cautions that tuition insurance isn’t for everyone, but it is something to at least consider before that first day.  

“Any family that really can’t afford the cost of an extra semester should really consider this,” she said. “If you weren’t able to send your student back because of that, that’s when you might consider tuition insurance.” 

Check the flexibility of your college’s refund policy before purchasing tuition insurance and be sure to read the fine print about pre-existing conditions and mental health coverage.  

Also, Tarangioli says students and their parents need to realize that GradGuard is not drop out insurance, because a student has to have a medical reason for leaving for coverage to kick in.