17 May To Insure or Not to Insure: Choosing the Right Maintenance Plan for School Chromebooks
Chromebook insurance can help schools offset the cost of computer repairs, but choosing the wrong plan puts more financial burden on parents and districts.
When school districts rush to distribute Chromebooks without adequate planning, they quickly realize that the initial cost is only the beginning. Like all mechanical gadgets, Chromebooks break. Students are carrying these devices around all day, and a Chromebook’s thin, lightweight construction has to withstand constant handling. Even ruggedized models, such as the Lenovo N22 or Dell Chromebook 3120, are bound to face an accident or two when students are frequently opening the lid and lifting and transporting the computer.
Repair costs are inevitable, whether or not schools have an in-house maintenance team. Districts that fail to factor repairs into the budget can easily end up overspending on damaged Chromebooks. For instance, administrators of Wisconsin’s Clintonville School District have spent more than $18,000 on repair costs since the 2014-2015 school year, while the district originally allocated $5,000.
Many districts expect parents to pay for damaged computers, but this creates difficulties for low-income families. Chromebook insurance is another popular option for managing repairs. A well-rounded plan can offer coverage for natural disasters and common mishaps, such as theft, liquid damage and cracked screens, but many schools don’t have the funds to cover these extra upfront costs. For example, a typical three-year plan from Worth Ave.Group costs about $125 per student and $84 per teacher for $300 of coverage with a $50 deductible. That adds up to $29,200 if a district buys coverage for 200 Acer C740 Chromebooks for students and 50 for teachers.
Options for Funding a Protection Plan
It’s essential for administrators to think about district resources and how Chromebooks are being used before making an insurance decision. Are young students involved in the one-to-one program? Will students take the devices home? Will students own the devices upon graduation? Are repairs or replacements more affordable? Can the average family in the district cover insurance costs? With these questions in mind, consider the following options.
Option 1: Parents pay for all damages.
This model can work in affluent communities, but such districts may prefer to have families provide their own computers. Clintonville is one example of what can go wrong if parents are forced to absorb the full cost of repairs. The district takes care of the maintenance and bills the family for the repairs. If parents don’t pay on time, they rack up overdue fees that make payment even harder.
The alternative is to hold parents responsible for getting Chromebooks repaired, but students may go without computers altogether if parents can’t afford an immediate fix. A possible solution is to negotiate a fixed rate with a provider to give parents the choice to buy optional coverage from a third-party insurer.
Option 2: The district charges an annual subsidized fee.
A yearly fee has worked for many schools because it reduces the burden on the district while allowing local families to make contributions that are within their means. Let’s say the insurance plan costs $50 a year to cover each Lenovo N21 Chromebook. The district would pay 50 percent ($75) over the course of three years and charge parents $25 a year to cover the remaining $75.
Option 3: The district charges a rolling deductible schedule.
Another way to balance expenses is to set up a deductible schedule based on the number of times a student’s Acer C202 Chromebook is damaged. A sample plan might include a $25 deductible for the first repair, $50 for the second one and $75 for the third one. After that point, the family pays to replace the device. A rolling deductible prevents the district and the parent from absorbing the full cost of repairs, and since the fee depends on recurring damage, it encourages parents to reinforce proper Chromebook care at home.
As Chromebooks become a staple of American classrooms, districts are challenged to find resourceful ways to fund one-to-one programs and keep computers in working order. Personal laptops aren’t a necessity, so many districts are reluctant to hold parents responsible for these devices in the same manner as damaged textbooks or equipment. The most important thing is to choose a maintenance plan that won’t drain the district budget and terminate an otherwise successful Chromebook initiative.
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