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Ever since higher education lost its exemption from laws against mandatory retirement ages, and especially since the economic downturn, college leaders have worried that not enough faculty members are retiring.

One national effort to encourage creative thinking about this issue is a grant program for which a new round of winners were announced Monday. Many of the awards reflect the thinking of retirement experts that one of the best ways to encourage retirement is to allow those preparing for emeritus status to maintain some ties to their departments and scholarship, as opposed to having a total shift from work to retirement.  The American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced $1.5 million in grants to 15 colleges and universities that have used new approaches to support retiring faculty members.

Among the grant winners were:

  • Mount Holyoke College, where professors nearing retirement can apply for a grant that helps them complete a specific project such as a publication or visiting an archive abroad.
  • University of Baltimore, where retired faculty members can receive support to help travel to conferences and have dedicated office space, as well as assistance from the university’s human resources office with the transition.
  • Albright College provides retiring faculty assistance with financial planning and tuition for dependents. The retirees can also take part in transition programs.
  • Bentley University in Massachusetts has policies on how faculty can plan to retire over a one-, two- or three-year period, thus giving individuals an opportunity to decide the pace of their retirement.
  • University of California at Davis has a website that helps faculty look at their retirement eligibility, pension estimates and checklists on retirement preparedness.
  • University of Southern California faculty members can use a “Living History Project” to record their legacy. They can work part-time or volunteer on campus to maintain links to the university.

Kathleen Christensen, a program director at the Sloan Foundation, said during a conference call Monday that the grants would recognize and help develop some of the ways universities are trying to smooth out the transition to retirement for older faculty members. “These models can be an inspiration for other colleges,” she said.

The other institutions recognized Monday with a $100,000 grant each were: Carleton College, Skidmore College, Wellesley College, San Jose State University, Xavier University, George Mason University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Princeton University and the University of Washington.

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