Eligible faculty members have until Dec. 1 to decide whether they’ll take advantage of the university’s phased retirement plan.
The plan allows tenured faculty members at least 55 years of age to apply for a one, two or three-year phased retirement period. If approved, the faculty member’s workload is reduced by 50 percent and his or her pay is adjusted accordingly.
Dr. Susan Lewis, vice provost, has been involved in the development of this retirement plan.
The university began offering the plan last fall, with applications due last December. Interested faculty had to make a relatively quick decision to apply, Lewis said. Three faculty members applied last year and received approval for phased retirement. This year, eligible faculty members have more time to consider their options as they approach retirement.
Thus far, the plan has been well received by faculty members. It was designed to offer flexibility to faculty members who have many years of experience as they approach retirement. With reduced workload, faculty have increased time to work on scholarly projects.
Lewis noted in an email that faculty members approved for phased retirement also still receive healthcare and insurance benefits.
“Everyone on the phased retirement plan is eligible for benefits, merit raises and retains his or her tenure until fully retired,” Lewis said.
Another benefit of this type of retirement plan is the amount of time departments have to plan for a faculty member’s retirement.
“Phased retirement gives the department advanced notice to begin planning how it will address the retirement of a particular faculty member,” Lewis said. “It’s really a win-win.”
Additionally, Lewis said the plan could potentially save the university some money.
“The phased retirement plan has the potential to save ACU some salary dollars, but another real benefit for both the retiree and the university is that it gives us more lead time than traditional retirement does,” Lewis said.
Dr. Wendell Willis, professor of Bible, has taught at ACU for 20 years. Willis is one of the faculty members approved last fall for the phased retirement plan.
“I thought I would just stop after a certain year but this was an attractive option for several reasons,” Willis said.
Willis said he found this option appealing because his retirement wouldn’t be a clean break from teaching, but he can gradually move out of his role as professor.
“People come to universities for different reasons but I enjoy the classroom,” Willis said. “I find a lot of fun and enjoyment in teaching, so I was a little reluctant to give it up. But, I also didn’t want to hang around after I should’ve left. This sort of allowed me to do that with two steps instead of one.”
This semester, Willis is on sabbatical and will return to teach half-time for two years.
Willis and Lewis noted this plan gives faculty members room in their schedules to work on projects outside of teaching.
“It gives experienced faculty members the option for more flexibility in their schedules as they approach full retirement, as well as giving them increased time to work on scholarly projects,” Lewis said.
Willis will spend his sabbatical semester finishing a book and has plans to start another when he returns to teaching half-time.
“One of the gains I get is more time to work on some publishing that I want to finish and get off my to-do list,” Willis said.
Eligible faculty members must submit applications by Dec. 1 for approval by their college’s dean.