Health Insurance

5% of Students Are Uninsured: How Open Enrollment 2021 Could See Record Applications

5% of Students Are Uninsured: How Open Enrollment 2021 Could See Record Applications

Students this summer and fall returned to schools and colleges across the nation. Even with massive hurdles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, education remains a cornerstone of our society.
Students returning to school.
Students returning to school. Source: Getty Images

Many students have to choose where to get health insurance when they leave for college, but that decision becomes even more important during a health crisis. Our analysis found that close to 5% of students of all ages are uninsured, with millennials the most likely to be without coverage. ValuePenguin researchers analyzed the student population across the U.S. to understand if — and what types of — students are at risk of being uninsured during a school year.

Key findings

North Dakota and Texas have the highest uninsured rates for students across all age groups

Across all states, 5.1% of — or 3.9 million — students don’t have health insurance coverage.

While North Dakota (14.8%) and Texas (12.1%) have the highest uninsured student rates, students in certain other states fare much better with finding insurance. Vermont, for example, has an uninsured student rate of only 1.1% — the lowest in the nation.

When broken out by gender, male and female students had near-identical uninsured rates of 5.7% and 5.4%, respectively. However, that wasn’t the case across states. North Dakota and Vermont, for example, had uninsured student rates that were 2.7 and 2.3 percentage points higher, respectively, for males than females.

Male uninsured student rate
Female uninsured student rate
District of Columbia1.9%2.2%
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20.9% of millennial students in Texas are uninsured, the largest percentage nationwide for this age group

Meanwhile, the group with the next highest uninsured student rate across all age groups was Generation X, with 7.7% of students reporting not having health care. Gen Xers in Montana and Mississippi were especially vulnerable, as these states had uninsured rates of 22.7% and 17.9%, respectively. Gen X students, in this case, are most likely to be in college or graduate school.

The youngest age group in our analysis — Generation Z — closely followed the national average with an uninsured rate of 5% across all U.S. states. This is especially interesting, as students in this subset are in their prime years of elementary, middle or high school — and you would expect them to have coverage either under a parent's policy or through their college (if they’re an older Gen Zer).

For people with no schooling, uninsured rates are at 8.6% nationally

This wasn’t the category with the highest uninsured rate, as someone might predict. Instead, individuals with at most a 12th-grade education had the highest rate of having no health insurance coverage at 12%.

The next highest uninsured rate was for individuals with schooling between fifth and eighth grade, at 9.3% nationally. Of note, nearly a quarter (23%) of Texas students with this amount of schooling have no health insurance coverage, according to responses from their households.

Unsurprisingly, 97.6% of the population with more than five years of college education reported having some form of health insurance — the highest among all levels of schooling. However, even with a large amount of education, 4.9% of five-plus-year college students in Texas and Florida were uninsured.

9.8% of individuals without a high school diploma are unemployed

Unemployment rates gradually decrease for individuals with more education. For example, the October unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree or higher was 4.2%.

Overall, more than 11.1 million people were unemployed in the U.S in October. With unemployment comes the reality that your employment benefits will most likely be extended for a limited period or terminated. This can lead to individuals being uninsured. With large unemployment figures in 2020, we project that this year's open enrollment period could be the largest in years.

Although many students will opt to stay on their parents' health insurance policy, this isn’t always an option for some. So open enrollment for students can be a time to evaluate all available health insurance options. Outside of staying on a parent’s policy, many colleges and universities offer student health plans. Another affordable health insurance option is to compare individual health insurance plans during open enrollment.


ValuePenguin utilized data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. Unemployment data is via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the current number of students is via the National Center for Education Statistics.