The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Faculty Retirement 101: What HR Professionals Should Know About Faculty Retirement Transitions

This article was contributed by the American Council on Education (ACE). Be sure to check out ACE’s session on the topic of faculty retirement at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, October 27-29.

Mature adult business couple talking uid 1In 2011, the American Council on Education (ACE) embarked on an initiative to investigate the latter stages of faculty careers and how institutions could facilitate smooth transitions into retirement for faculty. Given the end of legally enforced mandatory retirement in 1993, it has been difficult for both faculty and administrators to navigate the path for faculty retirement.

Through site visits, focus groups, an invitational conference, and an awards competition for best practices (which contained a faculty survey with 3,283 responses), many trends related to faculty retirement emerged. The themes below highlight the issues that HR pros should be aware of, along with recommendations for solutions.

Lack of Transparency

Through our research, we found that there is a lack of transparency in supports, such as retirement plans, that are available for faculty. This information is not easily accessible, and often faculty members receive inaccurate information from colleagues. HR should consider enhancing the communication of options and supports to retirees, ensuring that policies are worded in clear, understandable language and are easy to locate online.

Need For Coordination Between HR and Academic Affairs Offices

Faculty are used to communicating with the provost or their academic department when navigating career milestones like tenure and promotion. They are familiar with the department and tend to know the leadership personally. Although most policies and supports regarding retirement are located within the HR office, faculty envision HR as only being focused on the hiring and termination of employees. It’s crucial that coordination and communication between HR and academic administrators exist to ensure that integrated and comprehensive programming to facilitate retirement transitions is being provided.

Remaining Connected With the Institution

Although retiring means no longer being on campus on a regular basis and interacting with students and the campus community, many faculty wish to remain connected to the institution after retirement. Seventy-five percent of faculty members we surveyed said that they plan to remain connected to their institution following retirement. This means institutions need to communicate to retired faculty how they can remain engaged. Institutions should maintain a list of contact information for retired faculty and ensure that they receive communications about campus events. Programs to encourage faculty to explore encore careers and opportunities to volunteer within the local community also are ways to engage retired faculty.

Overall Lack of Awareness Regarding Retirement Supports, Plans and Options

Our faculty survey showed a lack of knowledge regarding many supports, plans and options for faculty in pre-retirement, during retirement and post-retirement. The top 10 items that rendered the highest lack of knowledge on the survey were:

  1. Medical bridge program (53%)
  2. Legacy programs (51%)
  3. Financial tools (e.g., calculators/comparison charts/demos) (46%)
  4. Retirement transition counseling (46%)
  5. Employee assistance program (45%)
  6. Ability to participate in tuition remission for partner/dependents in post-retirement (43%)
  7. Ability to participate in continued health insurance (40%)
  8. Ability to have spouse/partner/family be included in retirement conversations and opportunities (33%)
  9. Individual financial planning that is independent of retirement fund companies (32%)
  10. Amount of time given to senior colleagues to phase into retirement (31%)

Colleges and universities should consider launching communication campaigns to promote the policies, programs and supports that are in place. A comprehensive “one-stop shop” webpage for retirement is also recommended so that faculty can find all the information they need in one place.

More trends, data and recommendations from the project will be shared during ACE’s session at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, October 27-29.

Do the results of the ACE survey surprise you? How does your institution support retirement transitions for faculty?