June 22, 2021
Dear Faculty and Staff,
In early May, we announced the improved financial outlook following the early months of the pandemic would allow us to partially restore the university’s contribution to faculty and staff retirement plans.
We shared that the university would contribute five percent to plan participants for calendar year 2021 and that it would be retroactive to January 1, 2021. (Our retirement plan year is based on calendar years.) We also stated it would be paid at the end of 2021, which is consistent with the vast majority of higher education institutions and other employers, although it represents a change from our own approach.
As we have worked to support faculty and staff as best we can through the challenges of the past year, the temporary reduction in the benefit was one of the unanticipated and difficult steps needed in the short term to address the financial impacts of the pandemic and avoid layoffs. This step was similar to ones our peer institutions had to take.
After consulting further with faculty and staff and receiving additional feedback, I write today with three important updates:
- First, while the total amount of the university’s contribution remains five percent for the transition back period of 2021, we will now pay it at two points over the year.Eligible plan participants will receive a five percent contribution at the end of July for the first six months of the year (Jan. 1–June 30) and a five percent contribution at the end of the second six months of the year (July 1–Dec. 31). Contributions are based on regular wages earned for each respective time period covered during the plan year.
- Second, we now believe we are in a position to increase the university’s contribution to eight percent for calendar year 2022.This decision is based on our improved finances over the past few months, which includes additional COVID relief from the federal government and our latest enrollment forecast. It is important that we all do our part to support the university’s enrollment efforts and keep the university on the current trajectory for fall 2021. The enrollment outlook is strong but not guaranteed. Together, each of us makes a collective, as well as individual, difference in our ability to meet our enrollment goals and advance our strategic priorities.
- Finally, we are committed to working through our existing shared governance structures in the fall to determine how best to support and sustain this important retirement benefit as we move beyond the pandemic and its financial impacts.This will include consideration of the overall amount of the university contribution beyond 2022 and whether other changes are warranted, such as a matching contribution from plan participants, as most universities require.
We will undertake this consultative process recognizing two central commitments in the university’s Strategic Directions that were adopted prior to the pandemic: (1) Prioritizing investments in pay and other employee rewards, including the retirement benefit, to remain competitive and equitable in recruiting and retaining talented faculty and staff; and (2) Repositioning the university for change as called for in our Strategic Directions, which includes assuring the long-term financial health and viability of Seattle University.
We know how important Seattle University’s retirement benefit is to your futures and families and are committed to investing as fully as possible in the program in the coming years. We will continue to keep you updated on this important benefit. In the meantime, thank you for your service to Seattle U and your commitment to our mission and students.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.