Retirement Plans, Policies and Practices in Higher Education

March 2013

Colleges and universities sponsor retirement plans—both defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC)—to provide retirement income security for their employees. Plan sponsorship in higher education appears successful relative to other sectors of the economy. This makes plans in higher education, in particular, DC plans, models for consideration by public policy analysts. But plan designs in higher education are not static and unchanging. Colleges and universities must ensure that their plans are not only effective in providing retirement income security, but that they are cost-effective in doing so. In addition, sponsored plans must be competitive in the labor market. This report documents and examines “typical” retirement plan design (both DB and DC) in higher education, along with retirement-related programs, policies and practices. This includes the sponsorship of retiree health insurance and retirement incentives programs. Data is based upon a national survey of colleges and universities fielded by the TIAA-CREF Institute and the Center for Higher Education at Ohio University in 2011-2012.