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.

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 2016

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 contibutions do apply to the 415(c) limits ($53,000 in 2016), 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 $265,000 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 contributing to retirement
      • Increase or decrease your percentage contribution
      • Change your contribution mix between TIAA and Fidelity
      • Change your contributions between traditional tax-deferred or Roth contributions
      • Turn off your 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 and UA employees who transfer from one UA campus to another UA campus will be required to participate in the UA 403(b)/457(b) Retirement Plan.

Non-benefits-eligible Employee Retirement Options

All employees on university payroll are eligible to participate in an unmatched 403(b) retirement plan on  a voluntary basis. Although you will not receive employer contributions, you can contribute to TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments as a retirement plan option. Contributions can either be tax-deferred or after tax. Within IRS limits, you may enroll, end, increase, decrease or suspend your contributions at any time.

Contact an HR Expert for additional information or assistance.