Cornell announced on Friday its voluntary retirement programs for staff. In the wake of a budget crisis that has crippled the economy, the University has decided to offer the packages to eligible employees in an effort to alleviate financial strain on the University.
“The national and global economy has continued to decline, increasing the need for further budget reductions, including postponement of many faculty recruitments and reductions in staff,” Mary Opperman, vice president for human services, stated in a press release.
“Because layoffs are inevitable, President Skorton and I believe that Cornell University has a responsibility to give long-serving staff members the opportunity to leave with dignity and a measure of financial security,” she said in the statement.
The University announced two separate retirement programs. The first is a “one-time-only” offer that is for Cornell staff above the age of 55 who have been at the University for at least ten years. Its incentives include an “enhanced contribution” to the employee's retirement account, and also lump-sum payment, based on an employee’s base salary.
The Staff Retirement Incentive program is intended to facilitate a quick retirement. Applications for the program are only accepted from March 1 to March 30, and whoever chooses to use the program must retire on or before June 30.
The second program is a Staff Phased Retirement Program. Beginning March 1, eligible staff will give up their current positions and reduce their hours by accepting term appointments of 20 hours a week for up to three years. Participating in this plan will also yield an enhanced contribution to an employee’s retirement plan. According to the Office of Human Resources website, it is “anticipated that most staff will receive approximately half pay for half effort.”
“This option will provide eligible staff with an opportunity to ease into retirement. At the same time, the University will receive the benefit of payroll savings, while retaining the knowledge and service of colleagues for several more years,” Opperman stated.
Not all members of Cornell’s staff are able to utilize either of the retirement options. Tenured and tenure-track professors are ineligible, as are any professors that have more than 25 percent sponsored funds and Cornell Cooperative Extension Associate employees. However, the University felt these retirement plans were necessary.
“These options are being offered now because it is clear that Cornell needs to reduce its workforce over the next few years to bring our budget into equilibrium,” Opperman stated. “I am pleased that our leadership found a way to offer this choice to staff and believe it is a mutually beneficial option in a difficult time.”