Faculty retirement and COVID-19: Findings from the 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey

January 2021

How will COVID-19 affect retirement patterns among senior faculty and how can institutions respond?

Summary

This report uses data from the 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey to examine how faculty expectations regarding the timing of their retirement have changed in the context of COVID-19. Twenty-five percent of full-time senior faculty (age 50 or older) now expect to retire at an older age compared with their expectations prior to the onset of COVID-19. While an additional 11% of faculty now expect to retire at a younger age, it is the former that are likely of primary interest to higher education leadership in terms of workforce management as colleges and universities continue to work through the pandemic and plan for the future.

Key Insights
Twenty-five percent of full-time faculty age 50 or older now expect to retire at an older age compared with their expectations prior to the onset of COVID-19, while 11% expect to retire at a younger age.
An increase in expected retirement age is most common among faculty in their 50s, as well as female faculty.
While 69% of full-time senior faculty report that they have done a careful evaluation of when they can afford to retire, only 34% have received professional financial advice since the onset of COVID-19.
Almost one-third of full-time senior faculty report that they very likely would use a phased retirement program if offered by their institution when they decide to retire.
Methodology

The report’s findings are based on data from the 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey. The survey was fielded online from Sept. 18 to Oct. 17, 2020, with a sample of 1,195 faculty, staff and administrators employed full time by a public or private nonprofit college or university. The faculty sample of 600 included 213 respondents age 50 or older.

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