Sunday, July 11, 2010
Important: Effect of DC vs. DB Pensions at Universities on Retirement
The article below indicates the problems universities have with defined contribution pension plans (such as TIAA-CREF) which provide no incentives to retire. UC's defined benefit pension provides a strong incentive to retire for long-service employees.
Stanford University confronts the graying of academia
By Lisa M. Krieger San Jose Mercury-News
Posted: 07/10/2010 08:00:00 PM PDT
Updated: 07/10/2010 11:29:02 PM PDT
Note: The original article includes a graphic. Click on the url above.
Many workers yearn for retirement — the goodbye parties, the golf course, maybe even a gold watch. But Stanford University has the opposite problem: Nobody wants to leave.
Hoping to create more space for young scholars, Stanford has revamped its generous "Retirement Incentive Program" — for the second time in a decade — to nudge more old-timers toward the door.
"Our senior faculty are wonderful. I love them all," Provost John Etchemendy said at a recent meeting of the Academic Senate, publicizing the plan. "But we're getting fewer people into the faculty, and that's because people are staying longer," he said. "The faculty is aging."
Hired in large numbers during a 1960s and '70s higher education boom, Sputnik and civil rights-era professors now represent the majority of Stanford faculty. In 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, about 53 percent were older than 50, up from 43 percent in 1993. The under-45 crowd had fallen from 42 to 33 percent.
And like a seat on the Supreme Court and papal office, university tenure is lifelong. With the brightest students, best libraries and labs, and lighter teaching loads than at most state schools, professors at elite research universities have little reason to retire.
"I love Stanford. Over the years, it's gotten better and better,'' said Stanford English professor John Felstiner, 74, who swims, hikes and just completed a new book, "Can Poetry Save The
Earth?" "It's as good as it gets.''
In a lovely corner office stacked to the ceiling with dog-eared books — poetry, British literature, translations and Jewish studies — Felstiner turns melancholy when considering his departure.
"I love my department. I like being around people I admire and have known a long time. I love the students, and the scores of people who come here," said Felstiner, who arrived on campus in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was president. "It feels good to be connected. It is good to have a letterhead."
"The minute you retire, it's as if you're invisible.''
In 1994, because of changes in federal law, universities were forced to abolish mandatory retirement. They can only use certain age-based retirement incentives, such as part-time work for full-time pay.
Meanwhile, health has improved and lives have grown longer. And academia — a life of the mind — is sustainable in a way that physical toil is not.
"It's not like working in a factory on an assembly line, where, at a certain point, you're glad to get out of a job," Etchemendy said. "Universities provide a unique guarantee of lifetime employment."
Stanford is not alone in its conundrum.
At Harvard, 84-year-old physics professor Roy Glauber regales students with tales of developing the atomic bomb in World War II. California Institute of Technology's Nobel Laureate Rudolph A. Marcus, 86, is building collaborations with Singapore-based researchers.
MIT's math department reports that 27 percent of its faculty is older than 70. The school's Mildred Dresselhaus, professor of electrical engineering and physics, contributes to the cutting-edge field of carbon-based nanotechnology — at age 79.
The growing gerontocracy stirs vigorous debate.
"A lot of us think of 60 as the new 40," joked Stanford geophysics professor Mark Zoback, 62, an expert on the San Andreas Fault.
Law professor Hank Greely, 58, nationally renowned for his work on the legal, ethical and social issues of biomedical technologies, agreed: "The age of the overall American population has right-shifted. The whole country is older."
But former Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers told the Boston Globe that the aging of faculty "is one of the profound problems facing the American research university."
"It defies belief that the best way to advance creative thought, to educate the young, or to choose the next generation of faculty members is to have a tenured faculty with more people over 70 than under 40," Summers told the Globe.
Many countries in the developing world have undergone a rapid expansion in higher education that has required them to hire a large number of young professors. In China, for example, 30 percent of faculty are in their 20s and 30s, while only 3 percent are older than 60 years. India mandates retirement at age 60.
If too many older scholars prevent the younger generation's advancement, bright students may not go into academia, Etchemendy worries.
"We really narrow down to a tiny trickle the amount of new people — the new geophysicists, the new economists, or the new civil and environmental engineers," he said. "The health of the research enterprise of the country really depends on getting young people to choose academia as a career."
Stanford has tried different approaches to gently encourage departures.
In 1984, when the federal mandatory retirement age was pushed to age 70, Stanford created the Faculty Early Retirement Program. Then, in 1994, when mandatory retirement was prohibited, it created the Faculty Retirement Incentive Program.
Retired faculty can keep their campus home, Faculty Club membership and free campus parking. Other benefits include a "Tuition Grant" program for children, $500 toward financial planning expenses and use of libraries, gyms and the glittering Avery Aquatic Center. They're eligible to act as principal investigators on research. They can join a vibrant community of emeritus faculty, which the university financially supports.
But even those enticements proved insufficient. So the Incentive Program was updated in 2004, then updated again last September.
Costing Stanford $7 million to $10 million a year, it now offers phased retirement, with age-linked inducements. Faculty between the ages of 63 and 68 can participate in a two-year ''recall program," when they work part time yet earn full salary. Then they're given a lump sum equal to their full salary to say goodbye. Since the incentive was offered, about 20 percent of eligible professors have taken advantage of it.
Reluctantly, Felstiner finally decided to take Stanford up on the offer. He retired in March and leaves at the end of August — after he finds a home for his vast literature collection — to promote his new book to high schools.
"It will pain me to lose my office," he said, "but it's needed.''
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 408-920-5565.