The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

College Programs Urge Professor Retirement

Staff Writer

Incentives to encourage faculty members to seek early retirement are becoming increasingly popular among American colleges and universities, according to a survey conducted last year by the American Association of University Professors.

The "Survey of Changes in Faculty Retirement Policy" included 608 higher education institutions nationwide with more than 75 full-time faculty members.

Of the institutions surveyed, 46.2 percent reported the implementation of one or more incentive programs to encourage faculty members to retire before reaching the age of 70.

Ronald Ehrenberg, chairman of the professor association's Committee on Retirement, which administered the study, said the survey was conducted because faculty retirement programs are currently a hot topic in higher education.

"Many faculty members who were hired in the 50s and 60s are coming up on retirement ages," he said. "Many institutions wanted to find out the relevant practices currently in existence in American colleges and universities."

Ehrenberg said universities usually use the incentive programs so they can hire younger, more diverse faculty members. "There's a lot of reasons why universities would like to see turnover in their faculties," he said. "A lot of times they have a newer and fresher perspective on things."

Kitty McCullom, UNC-system associate vice president of human resources, said the retirement incentives could be used by the university to generate turn-over in the faculty. "I think it's advantageous for the employer and the employee," McCullom said of the phased-retirement program. "We might be able to keep a tenure-track faculty member while at this same time recruiting a new one."

The study indicated that the most common practices in place include offering cash buyouts, increasing retirement benefits for older faculty members who agreed to retire and phased-retirement plans, which are available to faculty members at all 16 UNC-system schools.

The program, adopted in 1997 by the Board of Governors, allows faculty members to voluntarily retire and relinquish their tenure in exchange for teaching on a part-time basis for three years.

The Older Workers Benefits Protection Act, through a temporary amendment passed by Congress in 1986, once allowed academic institutions to legally force older tenured faculty members to retire.

But when that amendment expired in 1994, institutions of higher education were forced to find other ways of encouraging faculty members to step down.

Nora Robbins, senior director of human resource services at UNC-Chapel Hill said she was surprised by how many people took advantage of the early retirement incentives.

"We thought people wouldn't retire," Robbins said. "That hasn't been the case. In fact, we've had more people retire than we expected."

And the systemwide phased retirement program could be one reason. More than a dozen faculty members participate in the program at UNC-CH each year.

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