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Faculty Retirement Incentives by Colleges and Universities

Listed author(s):
  • John Pencavel


    (Stanford University)

The end of mandatory retirement of college and university faculty in 1994 and the increased employment of older faculty have caused these institutions to devise policies to induce their older faculty to relinquish their tenure status. What policies do colleges and universities use to affect the employment decisions of their tenured faculty? What is known about the effectiveness of these policies? This is the purpose of this paper. Special attention is given to phased retirement programs and buyout programs. The incidence of these two programs is greater in institutions with a pension program that is of the Defined Contribution type. This is consistent with arguments suggesting that institutions with Defined Contribution pension programs are those in greater need to devise incentives for faculty to retire. Research universities are also more likely than other colleges and universities to have offered a buyout program and to have implemented a phased retirement program. A case study is examined of the largest buyout program, the voluntary early retirement incentive programs (VERIPS) used by the University of California in the first half of the 1990s. These experiences testify that large reductions in faculty employment can be effected. However, the cost of these buyouts are very difficult to forecast even though there is little evidence of an adverse selection problem. The costs imposed on colleges and universities by the end of mandatory retirement have been manageable and the programs to induce the retirement of older faculty have been sufficiently effective that these institutions have not been motivated to undertake more fundamental changes in the nature of tenured employment contracts in higher education. One reason for this is that the adjustments have been borne by those who are neither tenured nor on the tenure track. Increasingly, the teachers at American colleges and universities form two separate groups: the “insiders” consist of a relatively cosseted and privileged group who enjoy the entitlements of tenure and of being on the tenure track; the “outsiders” are part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty who often have the appearance of contingent workers.

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Paper provided by Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research in its series Discussion Papers with number 03-028.

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Date of creation: May 2004
Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:03-028
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  1. Weiler, William C., 1987. "Economic issues in faculty retirement plans in American higher education institutions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 207-226, June.
  2. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-620, September.
  3. Michael S. McPherson & Morton Owen Schapiro, 1999. "Tenure Issues in Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 85-98, Winter.
  4. Steven G. Allen & Robert L. Clark & Linda S. Ghent, 2003. "Phasing Into Retirement," NBER Working Papers 9779, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Orley Ashenfelter & David Card, 2002. "Did the Elimination of Mandatory Retirement Affect Faculty Retirement?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 957-980, September.
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