TIAA Institute Study Identifies Retirement Savings Programs Offered to Adjunct Faculty

  • Pre-COVID-19 survey finds an overwhelming majority of U.S. colleges and universities allowed adjunct faculty to defer salary in a sponsored retirement savings plan, regardless of teaching load
  • Adjunct faculty retirement savings plan coverage data can help higher education institutions better evaluate current and future adjunct benefit offerings

NEW YORK (June 18, 2020) – With employment benefits and retirement programs becoming increasingly valuable amid an economic crisis triggered by the global pandemic, TIAA Institute research released today provides an overview of the retirement benefits landscape for adjunct faculty, pre-COVID-19.  This new report offers insight into an evolving and varied benefit segment and illustrates how institutions can facilitate retirement savings for a broad swath of adjunct faculty, even as many colleges and universities are forced to revisit and adjust their budgets.

Between August and September 2019, 16 higher education systems and 105 institutions participated in a survey that found 100% of systems and 91% of institutions permitted all or some adjunct faculty to defer salary into a sponsored retirement savings plan. This research provides new insight into the context of previous research regarding retirement saving among adjunct faculty and could help guide institutions moving forward.

“We know from previous research that one-third of adjunct faculty contributed to a college or university retirement plan, so this data revealing the overwhelming extent to which these plans were available pre-pandemic is critical,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Head of the TIAA Institute. “As higher education leadership continues to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, this new research provides valuable insights they can use to focus on the financial wellbeing of their workforce, including adjunct faculty.”

Additional key takeaways from this new research, which was conducted by Paul Yakoboski, senior economist with the TIAA Institute, include:

  • Adjunct eligibility for plan participation was typically not contingent upon a minimum teaching load or a previous service requirement – 83% of institutions and 75% of systems covered first-time adjuncts who teach only one course.
  • Plan-eligible adjunct faculty were typically not auto-enrolled into the retirement savings plan.
  • Contributions by adjunct faculty were matched by 37% of institutions and 60% of systems where adjuncts could participate in a retirement savings plan. There was typically a specific employment-level threshold to be eligible to receive matching contributions.

To view the full report, “Retirement Benefits for Adjunct Faculty,” please click HERE.

Press Contact: John McCool, 888-200-4062,

About the TIAA Institute
The TIAA Institute helps advance the ways individuals and institutions plan for financial security and organizational effectiveness. The institute conducts in-depth research, provides access to a network of thought leaders, and enables those it serves to anticipate trends, plan future strategies and maximize opportunities for success. For more information about the TIAA Institute, visit and follow us on Twitter @TIAAInstitute.

About TIAA
With an award-winning track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA ( is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1.1 trillion in assets under management (as of 3/31/2020) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.