Retirement Benefits

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The university assists employees in planning for life beyond their working years with generous and flexible retirement benefits.

Benefits eligible university employees are required to participate in the University of Arkansas 403(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) defined contribution 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.

You must contribute 5% of your regular salary, pre-tax to the 403b. The University will contribute 5% of your regular salary automatically to the 403b. If you elect to contribute more than 5% of your regular salary (pre-tax or after-tax ROTH), the University will match your contribution, dollar-for-dollar, up to 10% of your regular salary. At no time can the combined employee and employer contributions exceed the limitations established by the Internal Revenue Code.

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 ).

Employee Voluntary 402(g) Contribution Limits for 2023

Plan Employees Below
Age 50
Employees Age 50
and Above
403(b) Plan $22,500 $30,000
457(b) Plan $22,500 $30,000
Total $45,000 $60,000

Employee required contributions do not apply to the 402(g) limits. The required employee contributions do apply to the 415(c) limits ($66,000 in 2023), 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 $330,000 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. The 457(b) is not eligible for ROTH contributions.

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.

Make changes in Workday to:

  • Start voluntary contributions to retirement
  • Increase or decrease your voluntary percentage contribution
  • Change your contribution 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 register with the vendor on their website.

All changes to your 403(b) and 457(b) deductions will be effective the first day of the month following the change submitted to Workday.

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

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. 


Changes to Retirement Contributions with Workday Implementation

The Workday system provides University retirement plan participants with the option to allocate contributions to only one vendor within a single payroll period. Employees participating in both retirement plans may change their contributions from one plan to the other as frequently as each pay period or paycheck.

 Employees within the University system will no longer have the option of a split enrollment default (such as 50/50) with Fidelity and TIAA but may continue to change their vendor selections throughout the year.

 New participants or new requests to change enrollments in the University retirement plan without a vendor selected will have TIAA listed as their default retirement plan.  Employees who participate dually in both Fidelity and TIAA will need to select one retirement vendor for 100% contribution by May 1, 2020, otherwise enrollment and future contributions will be fully transferred to the default of Fidelity.  These changes can be completed by employees through Workday.

Employees may continue to elect either vendor as well as move their contribution election between vendors each pay period if they so choose. Please remember only one vendor may be elected per pay period.

For questions regarding this change, please contact the Benefits department in Human Resources at

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 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 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 Workday. When enrolling in a new retirement account, you must also complete the account online enrollment process with TIAA or Fidelity Investments.

Contact an HR Expert for additional information or assistance.