Calvin College, with almost 4,000 students, is one of the nation's largest Christian colleges. Photo via fb.com
In response to declining enrollment, a local college is offering retirement buyouts to faculty and staff.
Calvin College President Michael Le Roy said on Feb. 17 the college will offer a one-time “voluntary retirement incentive program” to faculty and staff members who are 60 or older and have worked at the college in a half-time or greater role for at least 10 years.
The move allows those who accept the incentive to retire with one week of pay for each year of service, with a minimum of 26 weeks. In other words, those who have worked at Calvin for 10 years would receive 26 weeks of pay, and those who have worked at Calvin for 30 years would collect 30 weeks of pay.
Additionally, those who take the buyout may enroll in the retiree health plan, if eligible, and will retain tuition remission benefits for their dependent children.
Le Roy said in a letter to staff and faculty that through these incentives, Calvin intends “to respect the significant contributions to the college that have been made by the prospective program participants.”
So far, the response from faculty and staff has been positive, according to Todd Hubers, VP of people, strategy and technology, Calvin College.
“We have received positive feedback from employees, so we are hopeful it will be a good strategy for the college and for faculty and staff,” Hubers said.
Staff members who take the buyout will retire on June 30. To give the college time to secure their replacements, faculty members who choose retirement will continue to teach through the 2017-18 academic year and retire by Aug. 31, 2018.
According to an article in Calvin’s student newspaper, Chimes, Provost Cheryl Brandsen said Calvin aims to reduce the number of staff members, but the college will replace faculty members who take the incentive and assign the new hires to the academic area with the “greatest need.”
She indicated the college will reduce faculty costs by hiring assistant professors to replace full professors.
Le Roy said in the letter the program will “potentially reduce the number of future involuntary staffing reductions.”
Hubers said the school doesn’t have a minimum threshold of retirees in mind for the program. However, it does aim to reduce personnel costs, which comprise 50 to 60 percent of the college’s budget.
“As enrollment has decreased the last three years, the budget has gotten tighter, and we’re at a point where we need more budget flexibility,” Hubers said.
Freshmen enrollment numbers have declined over the past several years. In 2013, about 1,000 first-time students enrolled at Calvin. By 2016, that number dropped to 910.
Hubers said the college is planning for about 910 first-time students in 2017-18, plus about 75 transfer students.
“The demographic trend in the Midwest is a number of private and four-year colleges are experiencing this enrollment shift, because there aren’t as many 18-year-olds due to a population decline in the state of Michigan,” Hubers said.