The Office of Faculty Retirement

At Columbia University we see retirement as a continuation, not an end – a vital new phase of a faculty member’s career and life. We are committed to providing faculty members with the support they need to navigate retirement. The Office of Faculty Retirement, established by Provost John Coatsworth and strongly supported by Interim Provost Ira Katznelson, works with faculty members who are contemplating retirement, preparing to retire, or who have retired. This website provides information about retirement planning, including a phased retirement, and a meaningful and productive post-retirement experience.


Retirement Planning and Phased Retirement

There are a few broad sets of issues to address while considering retirement - benefits (financial security and health insurance), housing, and academic involvement during a phased retirement and/or post-retirement.

Savings in Your Retirement Plans:

The investments in your Columbia University Retirement Plans are managed by: The Vanguard Group and TIAA. Both companies offer private one-on-one sessions in which their counselors will help the faculty member decide how they should manage their resources. Faculty should contact their carrier(s) directly for these arrangements. (Specialists in the Office of Human Resources do not provide advice on investments but can help to make the connection.)

Health Insurance:

If faculty are at least age 55, and have completed 10 or more years of full-time service after age 45, they  are eligible for health care coverage under Columbia's Retiree Medical Plan at their retirement date. 

If they are 65 or over, Medicare and Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) plans either negotiated by Columbia or found on their own will become their primary coverage.

For more information about the retiree medical plans and about other post-retirement benefits, such as long-term care, life insurance, dental benefits, and tuition benefits, please see HR Retired Officers Benefits on the Human Resources website.

Housing:

If faculty are in a University apartment, they should consult the Columbia University Faculty Housing Policy for information on conditions under which they can stay in Columbia housing. The Office of Work/Life’s Housing Information and Referral Service can also assist them in searching for non-Columbia housing, for rent or purchase, anywhere in the New York City metropolitan area. More information on this service, as well as links to other housing resources, are on the Housing and Relocation section of the Office of Work/Life website.

The Incentive Plan for Tenured Faculty Retirement from Select Schools established by Provost Coatsworth aims to serve three principal goals:

  • it supplements the retirement resources currently provided for tenured faculty who wish to retire after age 65;  
  • it establishes terms for retirement so that faculty can plan ahead more effectively; and
  • it permits faculty to phase their retirement over a period of three years to allow for a more gradual transition.

The currently available Incentive Plan for Tenured Faculty Retirement went into effect on January 1, 2019. It is anticipated that it will remain in effect through December 2023. It is open to tenured faculty, aged 65 to 73, with ten years of full-time service in the following schools:

  • Arts and Sciences (including the School of the Arts)
  • Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
  • Graduate School of Business
  • Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • School of International and Public Affairs
  • Graduate School of Journalism, and
  • School of Social Work

Tenured faculty who meet the eligibility conditions must commit to initiating retirement by the time they reach age 74. Retirement may take place at once or be phased through a period of up to three years of normal or reduced activity at a prorated salary, with terms subject to the approval of the faculty member’s dean. Retirees will receive an incentive payment equal to 100 percent of their annual base salary (which does not include summer salary) upon retirement. (The template for this plan is available upon request.)

Faculty in these Schools who are not eligible for the Incentive Plan are encouraged to meet with their dean to explore individually-tailored options. 

Faculty who want to continue working beyond retirement must negotiate a specific agreement with their dean or chair (with the ultimate approval of the dean) outlining the terms of their post-retirement appointment, specifying details regarding space (including office) available for their work, courses they would teach, what access they would have to departmental or school labs, and whether and how the department or school would support them in new grant application processes.

Once signed, the agreement may be revoked no later than 5 pm seven (7) calendar days after it is signed.  Any changes that the faculty member wants to make to the terms of the agreement after this period require a revision of the existing agreement.

Phased retirement agreements specifically address the following:

  • the date of retirement,
  • the number of years of the phased retirement (up to three years),
  • the level of activity (as a percentage of full-time activity) and thus the percentage of regular salary the faculty member will receive and the percentage of the contributions the University will make to their retirement savings)
  • the activity that makes up the percentage of work to be performed:
  • the number of classes to be taught each year;
  • supervision of students;
  • the level of research, management of laboratories, etc.
  • administrative responsibilities; 
  • service on committees and participation in the governance of the school/department;
  • whether supplemental salary (e.g., summer salary) will continue; 
  • the designation of emeritus/emerita upon retirement (for faculty who hold a full professorial title).

While faculty are on a phased retirement, their current title will remain unchanged, and they will continue to participate in the University’s fringe benefits plans for active officers, according to the plans’ individual terms.  Their health insurance will continue in full.  As long as they earn 50 percent or more of their base salary, they will remain eligible to participate in the University’s tuition programs and life and long-term disability insurance programs, according to their individual terms, with the premiums based upon the benefit amounts they elect. Their spouse and children will similarly be eligible to participate in the University’s life insurance program. Coverage for the faculty member and their family would cease if their salary falls below 50 percent of their base salary at any point during the period of phased retirement.  The University can authorize the company holding their pension funds to let them activate a portion of their pension prior to retirement if they so elect.  Faculty may annuitize any amount allowed by the company, provided that it does not interfere with the University’s ability to continue to make contributions to their account prior to retirement. (The template for this plan is available upon request.)

Since post-retirement arrangements depend on the resources available in each school or department, the phased retirement agreement will specifically address the arrangements determined in the discussions with the dean and/or chair, such as:

  • what courses would be taught, in what semesters, and for how many years after retirement;
  • whether Columbia could be used as a base for applying for grants for on-going research, or, less likely, new research;
  • whether the use of laboratory facilities would be available, and if so, under what conditions;
  • if and what office space would be granted and for how long;
  • what role the faculty member would have in continuing supervision of their current students; and
  • what role, if any, the faculty member would continue to have in their school or department.

Once signed, the agreement may be revoked no later than 5 pm seven (7) calendar days after it is signed.  Any changes that the faculty member wants to make to the terms of the agreement after this period require a revision of the existing agreement.

Post-Retirement Resources

Many of the benefits that retirees can expect are listed in the Faculty Handbook under Retiree Benefits and in the phased retirement agreement. Retired faculty members will be able to secure:

  • a Columbia University Retiree ID card;
  • retain their Columbia email address;
  • continue to have use of the Columbia libraries (For a full list of Library access, visit: Columbia University Library Privileges);
  • have access to events on campus;
  • have access to Columbia’s gyms when they obtain a membership;
  • can join EPIC (Emeritus Professors in Columbia) and participate in its events; and
  • can participate in volunteer events listed at Community Impact.

Parking at the University is a scarce resource. For information about eligibility and how to apply, retired faculty on the Morningside and Manhattanville campuses should visit Parking Policy for Morningside Heights Campus, and those at the Medical Center should visit CUIMC Parking.