Northern Illinois University - Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow

April 3, 2014

President BakerBAKER REPORT: In search of answers on college, retirement funding

Keeping a college education affordable is an important part of ensuring student career success. Therefore, we were delighted to host a news conference on campus today with Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor outlined his proposal to help students in need of financial assistance by doubling funding for the state’s Monetary Assistance Program over the next five years.

A few months ago, Student Association President Jack Barry and NIU student Steffen Canino joined me at the capitol to discuss this issue with the governor, who was very interested in their comments and insights. We appreciate Gov. Quinn’s plan and believe that it will significantly enhance student opportunities.

Another financial issue of interest on campus affects our faculty and staff.

Last December, state lawmakers approved legislation to address rapidly increasing pension expenses.  Because of those changes, employees eligible to retire in the near term could face significant reductions in their retirement annuities should they choose to work beyond June. This situation has the potential to dramatically impact our university and our long-term employees. As I told the University Council yesterday, I am very concerned.

Earlier this week, state university presidents and chancellors met with the head of SURS to discuss this issue. We told her about the difficulties that our employees are having getting information to help them evaluate options and make retirement decisions in a timely manner. She responded that she shared our concerns and pledged to provide more information soon, adding that the number of potential retirees seeking that information has overwhelmed SURS.

At this time, the best advice we can offer is this: if you are, or think you might be, eligible for retirement in the near term, visit the SURS website and check your retirement benefits. Our Human Resource Services staff is actively working to provide what information it can under guidance from SURS and posting the latest details on its retirement website as it becomes available.

I sympathize with those for whom the uncertainty around this issue is causing tremendous stress. It is also source of great concern for the rest of the university as we anticipate the effects of losing so many valuable employees who have made so many valuable contributions over the years.

We will do all we can in the weeks and months ahead to provide as much information as possible so that all of us can make informed decisions:

  • Information on which current employees are immediately impacted by these changes, and what steps they should be taking, can be found here.
  • Human Resource Services has scheduled more than 20 workshops to provide assistance completing retirement paperwork.  
  • SURS representatives will be on campus from 10 a.m. until noon, Thursday, April 24, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium to explain how the recent changes in state law impact retirement benefits for all employees.
  • SURS will be on campus at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 23, in the Sandburg Auditorium to host a special session devoted to how changes in the law impact annuitants.

Thank you for your patience as we work through this difficult process.

Together Forward,

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