UK offers voluntary retirement incentives for some faculty

The University of Kentucky has offered incentives to about 170 tenured faculty members to encourage them to retire.

Eligible faculty members are those who have tenure, are 65 or older and have at least 15 years of continuous service.

They are being offered a one-time payment of half their base salary, with a salary cap of $150,000. Faculty must apply for the program by April 11 and retire by Dec. 31.

"UK recognizes that the tumultuous economy of the last few years has had an impact on our university and our academic programs," UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement.

The program will allow the university to reward long-time faculty members and to evolve for future needs, his statement said.

The program is not intended to rebalance the faculty to have more teachers in areas that are popular with students, UK spokesman Jay Blanton said.

"We have a number of interested faculty who are eligible for retirement, or have been for some time, who have not been able to take that option because of the economic recession of the last few years," he said.

Blanton said UK has not projected any cost savings associated with the program. Based on the experiences of other universities that offer similar programs, about 50 faculty members might retire across 18 colleges, costing UK about $3 million in incentive pay.

The vacancies will be filled by hiring faculty members in departments in which they're needed — not necessarily to replace a specific retiree.

Will tenured faculty members, who are not required to retire at any specific time, be encouraged by the incentives?

Donald Mullineaux, who teaches in the school of management at the Gatton College of Business and Economics, said he won't retire, even though he is eligible for the program.

"The reason I won't be taking it is that I don't think it is a strong incentive," he said.

First, he said, the one-time payment will be taxable, and second, it won't be enough money to "significantly impact your capacity to live in your retirement years."

If a faculty member was going to retire anyway, Mullineaux said, it's a nice bonus. But he said he doubts it will tip the scale for faculty members who are undecided.

He also said he doubts that UK will get anywhere near 170 faculty members to take advantage of the program: "If that's 40 who would have retired anyway, then the university just wasted a lot of money," he said.

John Thelin, an education professor and a member of the faculty senate, said he hopes UK has planned so some high-enrollment courses are not left without their traditional instructors.

The program will appeal to "those who probably were considering retirement anyway," said Thelin, who is too young to be eligible for the incentives.

The incentives are not available to staff, untenured faculty or tenured clinical faculty members in the hospital and dental clinics. Faculty who are in a phased retirement program — with scaled-back duties leading to full retirement — are not eligible.

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