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Would-be early retirees wait

BY SAMANTHA HONKEN | OCTOBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM

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Hundreds of faculty and staff members who want into the UI’s early retirement program are still unsure if their applications will be approved.

More than 700 people have applied since the program started in July, but more than 500 of them do not know if they’ll be able to leave the UI early with the same benefits.

Wednesday was the last day for the 3,000 people eligible for the program to submit an online application, and officials said they are satisfied with the response.

The UI offered a similar early retirement package in the 1990s and decided to reintroduce the program over the summer to help offset budget cuts, said Richard Saunders, a senior associate director of UI Human Resources.

Officials decide who to accept based on how much money the university will save by letting them go, he said.

“The No. 1 reason this program was created was for savings,” Saunders said. “And any savings is a successful savings.”

Of the 700 applications submitted, 120 have been approved, he said. Individual departments have until the end of October to analyze applications and determine if employees will be granted early retirement.

If approved, staff and faculty must vacate their positions before June 2010.

The University of Northern Iowa, which implemented a similar program, set its deadline for departing employees for the end of this semester. The UI decided to extend its date so professors could teach through the end of the school year.

Nancy Fick, the human-resources director for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said 12 faculty and 24 staff members have applied for early retirement.

Applications for early retirement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if it is more cost-effective to continue to employ people, replace them, or parcel their duties out to other staff or faculty, Fick said.

With several applications awaiting approval in the College of Education, Dean Sandra Damico said she will likely not fill all empty positions.

“We’ll be shifting some things around,” she said. “But we won’t leave any office uncovered.”

Sixty percent of submitted applications were from staff in the health-sciences departments, Saunders said.

Both Iowa State University and UNI ended their early retirement programs at the end of the summer, with UNI approving 116 people and ISU accepting 210.

UI Ombudsperson Cynthia Joyce said she hasn’t fielded any staff complaints about being denied early retirement, but knows the issue is concerning for many UI employees.

“It’s a challenging situation for any university,” she said.


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