Officials not seeing delayed retirements

BY CLARK CAHILL | MAY 14, 2009 7:32 AM

At a time when the UI is facing budget shortfalls and may be forced to reduce faculty and staff, some university officials say they’re not concerned about the possibility of professors delaying retirement.

A survey released by TIAA-CREF last week showed many professors are pushing back their plans for retirement, and colleges may need to provide more incentives for retirees or see fewer people leave. The survey also suggests with many schools already holding back hiring new staff, retirement delays could make the job market for new Ph.D.s even tougher.

Richard Saunders, the senior associate director of UI Human Resources, said he hasn’t seen a trend indicating the UI is experiencing this problem.

“You hear about individuals delaying their retirement because of the current economic situation, and their retirement accounts are shrinking,” he said. “The trend we are seeing right now appears to be the same as it has always been, but maybe next year, it might be different.”

The state Board of Regents recently approved two retirement initiatives — early retirement and phased retirement — in an attempt to avoid staff layoffs.

The new early retirement plan is available for any staff member over the age of 57, but employees must fully retire by June 30, 2010. Any participating staff member will continue to receive all health and dental benefits, Saunders said.

A new phased retirement plan — available to those aged 57 and older who have also worked at the UI for more than 15 years — allows employees to work part-time for up to two years while receiving a 25 percent salary incentive.

The UI already has around 140 staff members participating in a five-year-maximum phased retirement plan with a 10 percent salary incentive, Saunders said.

The main reason for the new incentives is to save money and prevent cutting staff, he said, rather than trying to prevent delayed retirements and a tighter job market for young Ph.D.s.

But Associate Provost Susan Johnson said the tight budget could limit the funding available to hire new faculty, which might lead to reduced turnover.

“It’s not so much a matter of wanting people to retire, but departments really have gained a lot from bringing in new people,” she said. “A certain vitality comes with new hires and not having that will reduce the natural input of new thinking and ideas.”

She has heard staff members considering a delayed retirement, she said, and officials are becoming more aware of the possibility.

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