Regents approve second wave of early retirement program

BY EMILY BUSSE | MARCH 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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Despite continuing concerns, the state Board of Regents approved on Wednesday a second Early Retirement Incentive Program at the University of Iowa.

University officials brought the slightly tweaked plan before the regents after having failed to garner approval in February.

The plan passed 6-3, allowing UI officials to go ahead with a setup they hope will retire more faculty and save more money.

Regents Craig Lang, Ruth Harkin, and Michael Gartner voted against the program, citing major inequity concerns they also expressed last month.

Harkin said that although she is pleased with some changes, the overly generous program and its variance from other regent institutions’ plans is still too much.

“I’m still concerned that we really should have parallel retirement programs from all of our institutions,” she said. “I do think the University of Iowa program still is too rich in terms of retirement incentives.”

Lang and Gartner expressed similar misgivings, citing the payment of TIAA-CREF retirement benefits as too substantial.

The 2010 plan will offer the same benefits as last year’s, but UI officials changed the eligibility age from 57 to 55 and up. Also, employees must have 10 or more years of service at the university to participate.

Last year’s program allowed 340 employees to retire early — 59 percent of those who applied to do so.

Board President David Miles voted in favor of the program despite the opposing regents’ “sound arguments” that the regent institutions’ programs were different.

“I am not troubled by the fact that they’re not all identical. I think they need to be tuned to the particular needs of each campus,” Miles said, and he is pleased with the addition of a 10-year service requirement.

The regents also approved a change to Iowa State University’s retirement incentive and directed both universities’ officials to present a report again at the August 2010 meeting.

With the approval, eligible faculty members have a window from April 1 to May 15 to apply for the program.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said that despite the remaining concerns with the plan, UI President Sally Mason and other officials are confident.

“It is essentially important for each individual institution to sculpt a program that works for it,” Moore said. “Our program, we feel, works well for us.”

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