15 Colleges Receive Grants for Innovation in Helping Faculty Retire

June 18, 2012

The American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on Monday awarded $100,000 grants to each of 15 colleges for adopting innovative approaches to helping faculty weather the winter of their careers.

The grants will enable each institution to further develop its programs that support professors before, during, and after their transitions to retirement.

"We are hopeful these award-winning institutions can provide examples for our community of thoughtful approaches that can be modeled," said Kathleen Christensen, director of the Sloan Foundation's Working Longer Program, in a written statement. The program provides grants to study the work patterns of aging Americans.

While many colleges provide financial-planning programs to faculty members nearing retirement, experts on faculty-retirement programs not related to the grant awards recommend that institutions do more to help retiring faculty members navigate the lifestyle transition.

ACE and the Sloan Foundation used the awards to single out colleges with policies that help faculty in three areas: establishing a legacy, switching to an emeritus position, and maintaining connections with their academic communities. The 15 institutions have tried various approaches.

Many provide courses, online tools, and community-outreach programs designed to help faculty members establish a legacy plan. The University of Southern California, for instance, offers a course on writing an autobiography.

George Mason University, which saw its percentage of faculty members over 60 jump from 10 percent in 1990 to 27 percent last year, provides life-planning seminars and community volunteer programs to help emeritus faculty transition to postacademic life.

To help retirees maintain connections to their academic communities, the University of Baltimore gives private office space to its emeritus faculty. Mount Holyoke College provides retired faculty with the opportunity to continue teaching.

On top of the financial-planning services that most institutions offer, many of the grant winners also provide subsidized health-care plans. The University of Washington, for example, offers its retired faculty tax-free medical-expense accounts.

The other institutions honored were: Albright College, Bentley University, Carleton College, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton University, San Jose State University, Skidmore College, the University of California at Davis, Wellesley College, and Xavier University (Ohio).