March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014: Growing concerns about the long-term fiscal prospects for college and university retirement and benefit programs will be addressed in a study sponsored by the Center for Studies in  Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of California, Berkeley.

With support from Fidelity Investments,  the Higher Education Pension Reform Project will  document major changes to retirement and post-retirement benefit programs that US colleges and universities have adopted in recent years.  The review will look at how programs are funded; the kinds  of programs and benefits offered (such as defined benefit or defined contribution programs); and whether retirement programs that offer health benefits fund them through contributions by employers, employees, or both. The project  will also examine how various programs are governed and administered.

The principal investigator for the project is James A. Hyatt, Senior Research Associate at CSHE and Interim Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the University of Arizona. He has also served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia Polytechnic and State University, as Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance and Chief Financial Officer for the University of California, Berkeley, and as the Interim Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

The project’s research methodology  will consist of three major components:

•               A review of pension programs in higher education and  the major issues facing   these programs at both the state and the institutional level.

•               A national survey of public multi-campus systems, institutional, governmental, and other providers of retirement and post-retirement benefit programs to establish how benefit programs are currently structured, governed, and financed.  The survey will also gather  information on how  these organizations  have restructured their programs to meet rising costs and decreased revenues.

•               A description and analysis of best practices through  case studies of pensions and post-retirement benefit programs at both the governmental and the institutional level.       

 An advisory committee of institutional, industry, state, national, and international leaders in  higher-education pension reform will guide the project. The advisory group will provide the perspectives of multiple constituencies  on the development and implementation of innovative approaches to pension reform at the institutional, university system, and state level. The  committee will also play a key role in  developing the national survey instrument and  identifying site visits that will document innovative approaches to  pension reform.  The committee will also include a representative from Fidelity Investments.

Leading higher  education organizations represented on the project advisory committee include:

  • The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO);
  • The Association of Governing Boards (AGB)
  • College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR)
  • The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO)
  • The National Association of System Heads (NASH)

Participating professional associations have agreed to disseminate the results and findings from  the project among their members and other constituency groups.


James A. Hyatt