Retirement Benefits

The university assists employees in planning for life beyond their working years with generous and flexible retirement benefits.  University employees hired July 1, 2016, and after will be required to participate in the University of Arkansas 403(b)/457(b) defined contribution plan.

When choosing your investment plan choices, consider factors such as your future employment plans and your interest in participating in the management of your investment funds.

Changes to the UA Retirement Plan

After an extensive review by the University Retirement Plan Committee, which includes representatives from all University of Arkansas System (UAS) campuses, the University has decided to update the UA Retirement Plan to ensure that the retirement plan offering is consistent with what is considered best practice in the industry.   Recently, notices were mailed to UA retirement participants with all of the details of the upcoming transition.  See below for documents distributed to employees.  El Folleto de Transición está disponible en Español.

 Announcement Email from Human Resources 

Cover Letter 

Transition Brochure  

Investments Guide 

Transition Brochure (En español) 

Mapping Guide

Mapping Guide Cover Letter

Presentations were offered April 21, 24, & 27, 2017, to review the change.  Participants can view an on-line Brain Shark for a summary of these presentations.

 Click here for more information about these exciting changes to the UA Retirement plan.

Review the Transition Brochure to make sure you understand the changes taking place.  If you have questions, contact Fidelity at 800-343-0860 and TIAA at 800-842-2252 or contact Human Resources at 575-5351.   More information is available online at https://www.tiaa.org/uasys or https://netbenefits.com.UArk

The UA 403(b)/457(b) Retirement Plan

The UA 403(b)/457(b) plan is a defined contribution and does not pay a specific benefit when you retire.  Your retirement benefit is dependent on the earnings or losses of your investments. You  contribute a percentage of your pay, and the university will make a matching contribution. At retirement or separation of service from the university, you can withdraw this money in lump sum amounts or over time, subject to plan limitations. Before you have retired, you may begin to withdraw this money at age 59½.

Offering retirement options for regular 403(b), Roth 403(b) and 457(b) plans, the university's defined contribution plan gives you the option of investing with TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments. You can choose to invest with one or both companies and transfer accumulations from one company to another, subject to restrictions.

Contributions to the UA Retirement Plan

The university contributes an amount equal to 5% of your regular salary when you contribute 5% or less.  The university will match any contributions you make over 5% up to a maximum employer contribution of 10%.  At no time can the combined employee and employer contributions exceed the limitations established by the Internal Revenue Code.

Effective July 1, 2016, employees will be required to contribute at least 1% to the retirement plan. The employer matching contribution will be based on the combined required and voluntary employee contributions. Each July 1 the required employee contribution will increase by 1% until it reaches 5%.

July 2016 through June 2017                    1% employee contribution required

July 2017 through June 2018                    2% employee contribution  required

July 2018 through June 2019                    3% employee contribution required

July 2019 through June 2020                    4% employee contribution required

July 2020 and forward                                   5% employee contribution required  

You may contribute to your 403(b) plan in one of two ways:

  • Pre-tax: Retirement contributions are deducted from your salary before state and federal taxes are calculated, and your taxes are based on your income after your retirement contribution. Pre-tax retirement contributions and their attributable earnings are taxed the year you withdraw them, deferring federal and state taxes until withdrawal. The mandatory employee contribution must be Pre-tax.
  • After tax (Roth): Retirement contributions are made after the applicable taxes have been deducted from your salary. Therefore, contributions are not taxed when they are withdrawn.  Earnings on Roth contributions will be tax-exempt if they are part of a qualified distribution ( at least five years from the year of your first Roth 403b contribution and after you have attained the age of 59 1/2 ).

Contribution Limits

Employee Voluntary 402(g) Contribution Limits for 2017

Plan Employees Below Age 50 Employees Age 50 and Above
403(b) Plan $18,000 $24,000
457(b) Plan $18,000 $24,000
Total $36,000 $48,000

Employee required contributions do not apply to the 402(g) limits. The required employee contributions do apply to the 415(c) limits ($54,000 in 2017), which are the combined employee and employer contributions to the 403(b) plan, excluding the additional employee voluntary contributions for employees over age 50. Additionally, under IRS regulations, the employer contributions can only be made on $270,000 of salary.

You will only participate in the 457(b) plan if you reach your 403(b) limit before the end of the calendar year and have selected to do so when completing your Salary Deferral Agreement.

Vesting in the University Plan

To be vested in the university plan means that you have been given ownership of the money within your retirement account. Your retirement funds will follow you if you change jobs within the University of Arkansas System or leave the system entirely. Employees not vested when they leave university employment forfeit any university contributions made to their retirement plan. Employee contributions are 100% vested immediately. 

University contributions for all faculty and staff hired July 1, 2016, and after are vested if, while employed in a benefits-eligible position, the employee:

      • Completes of 24 consecutive months of employment.
      • Dies
      • Reaches age 65
      • Becomes disabled as determined by the Social Security Administration or the university's long-term disability insurance provider

The University of Arkansas has a once vested, always vested rule. If you previously worked for any University of Arkansas System campus and were vested when you left employment, you will retain that vesting status when you are re-employed by any University of Arkansas campus. Inform HR of any prior University of Arkansas system employment.

If you are not vested when you leave university employment and return to the university with a separation of 30 or more days, your vesting period starts over.

Making Changes

Make changes in webBASIS or complete the Salary Deferral Agreement to:

      • Start voluntary contributions to retirement
      • Increase or decrease your voluntary percentage contribution
      • Change your contribution mix between TIAA and Fidelity
      • Change your voluntary contributions between traditional tax-deferred or Roth contributions
      • Turn off your voluntary retirement contributions

When enrolling in a new retirement account, you must also complete a company account application for TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments.

All changes to your 403(b) deductions will be effective the month you sign the form as long as payroll for that month has not yet run. A future start date can be selected; use the first day of the month as your effective date.

All changes to your 457(b) deductions will be effective the first day of the month following the date HR receives your completed forms.

Change Beneficiaries

Send paper forms to:

University of Arkansas
Human Resources
1125 W Maple Street
222 Administration Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Fax: 479-575-6971

Retirement Counseling

Counselors from both TIAA and Fidelity Investments provide free individual retirement planning counseling sessions on campus. Contact TIAA and Fidelity Investments directly to schedule an appointment. 

Defined Benefit Plans

The University of Arkansas System ceased participation with the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) effective July 1, 2016, and the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System (ARTRS) effective July 1, 2011.  Existing APERS and ARTRS participants at the time the UA ceased participation were grandfathered in and allowed to continue to participate.  New employees of the University of Arkansas will be required to participate in the UA 403(b)/457(b) Retirement Plan.  UA System employees who transfer from one campus to another and who were participating in APERS or ARTRS at their prior campus can elect to participate in APERS at their new campus.  A transfer is defined as a 30-day or fewer break in service.

Non-benefits-eligible Employee Retirement Options

If you are paid on University of Arkansas payroll but are not a benefits-eligible employee, you are eligible to participate in an unmatched 403(b) retirement plan on a voluntary basis. Although you will not receive employer contributions and will not have to make any required employee contributions, you can contribute to TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments as a retirement plan option. Contributions can either be tax-deferred or Roth after tax. Within IRS limits, you may enroll, increase, decrease or suspend your contributions at any time.

Start contributing, make changes to your existing contributions or stop your current contributions in webBASIS (go to My Benefits and then Retirement Elections) or complete the Salary Deferral Agreement and return it to Human Resources (complete sections B and C).  When enrolling in a new retirement account, you must also complete the account online enrollment process with TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments.

Contact an HR Expert for additional information or assistance.