Recently, Alma College announced that they would be offering select staff an early retirement plan. It is a voluntary opportunity that involves a cash incentive to retire earlier than they might have been able to otherwise.
The personnel affected includes staff, meaning the employees that are not faculty (those that teach various courses), but people who work in areas such as maintenance and administration. This group included people from “all areas of the college—from senior leadership to hourly employees” said Ann Hall, vice president for planning and chief of staff.
To be eligible to participate, they had to meet certain criteria to receive the offer. First, they could not be temporary employees and have to work at least half time. Additionally, the staff member has to have been at Alma College for at least ten years with “a combined years of service and age equal to at least 65 as of Apr. 1, 2019” according to Hall. This affects 57 members of the Alma College staff.
These cuts are coming after an increase of expenses at the college. There is no single cause of the rising expenditures, but rather, there are many, such as the rapidly rising price of health care. Hall also mentioned that they hired more staff recently which added to the costs.
At the moment, the college is “financially healthy,” but there is a need to cut the current costs to keep it strong, according to Hall. This, along with other cost-cutting measures, could potentially cut the college’s expense by four percent.
Staffing has not been the only attempt at cutting costs, “all cost areas have been under review,” stated Hall. Outside contracts have been reduced recently, which saved the school about $1 million, and there have been “energy efficient features” installed with new construction to lower that expense.
There have been a variety of reactions to this new opportunity. Some of the eligible staff have been accepting and see it as a beneficial experience. There are also others who do not necessarily see it in the same light and are not ready to consider their retirement. Hall says that “a voluntary retirement offer is considered the fairest, least impactful way to reduce staffing expenses.”
The college has been trying to ease the decision by providing different services to those that are considering the option because they recognize the impact it could have on their lives. There have been large group discussions, as well as individual ones, to provide the staff with more information so they can make the decision that best suits their life. Their main goal is to be able to answer the questions so they can make the most informed decision possible.
This is not the first time the college has offered this as an option to their personnel. The most recent happened in 2012 for faculty. Prior to that, the last offer was about 20 years ago for staff.
A similar early retirement plan could be offered to faculty, coming as early as after the next academic year. The goal is to keep the budget balanced and limit the effect that students experience.
Hall commented, “the outlook for Alma College is strong. Alma has operated balanced budgets for decades. While the emerging higher education landscape presents new challenges, we are confident that making there types of decision now ill better align with out strategic goals and puts us in an even stronger position moving forward.”