Running any educational institution - from a small private elementary school to a magnet high school to a large public university—is a complex operation. School boards, administrators, and staff must support a school’s educational goals while protecting students, employees, and property.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added new challenges for the education sector as well. Schools must take special steps to open and operate safely—whether classes are held in person, online, or following a hybrid model.
Identifying risks to educational institutions
Accidents, mismanagement, and criminal actions—such as cyber attacks—can all place educational institutions at risk. Unaddressed risks can expose schools to financial losses, physical harm and reputational damage, as well as undermine a school’s ability to fulfill its academic mission.
Administrators and risk managers can mitigate their institution’s exposure by identifying risks, taking preventive actions, and working closely with insurance advisors to develop a comprehensive coverage package. In addition to addressing risks specific to education, schools must also protect against common risks faced by any enterprise.
Risks of student life
College provides new opportunities and experiences for millions of students every year. Students often live, work, and learn closely together. This environment, combined with new freedoms for young adults, can create risks; by identifying these risks, schools can put plans in place to limit their exposures.
- Student accidents. Students may be injured while participating in activities, such as sports or field trips, organized by their school or an affiliated group. Accidents can also happen in dorms, labs, and studios, especially when hazardous equipment is used. Students can be injured in vehicle accidents when they are traveling for school-sponsored activities, as well. Depending on the circumstances, schools may be held liable for injuries to students—or at least have to defend against claims relating to those injuries.
- Student health. Students can face health hazards during in-person classes and when living on campus. While many colleges and universities require students to carry their own health insurance, educational institutions can help prevent illnesses by supporting hygiene in living quarters and cafeterias. This includes food preparation safety best practices. Many schools have also taken extraordinary steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, including testing, mandating social distancing, mask wearing when social distancing is not feasible, limiting building occupancy, and more.
- Mental health. Educational institutions increasingly recognize their obligations to support students’ mental health and the advent of COVID-19 has further heightened the issue. Schools can support students by providing access to mental health support and emergency services.
- Study abroad. Students may face additional risks when they study abroad. Schools can provide enriching study abroad experiences, while also taking steps to safeguard against security and health risks related to foreign travel.