This section provides an overview of many benefits available to faculty and staff. In the event of conflict between the overview provided in this handbook and the plan document or insurance plan, the plan document or insurance plan will govern. Complete descriptions are not possible in the handbook; employees should contact Human Resources for specific plan details. The Labor Agreement governs in the case of Union employees in all aspects of this section. Regular non-union employees who have a schedule involving a (.46) FTE or above, and Union employees who have a (.50) FTE or above are eligible to participate in the College‚Äôs benefit programs.

Carleton College will comply with all applicable laws such as ACA, FMLA, federal, state, and any applicable regulations.

Employment & Benefits

Retirement Plan

The College makes Retirement Plan contributions for regular, benefit-eligible employees 21 years of age or older, to the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) and allows eligible employees to invest discretionary salary reduction contributions in tax deferred annuities and custodial accounts.   

The general terms of the Carleton College TIAA-CREF Plan (herein-after sometimes referred to as the “Plan”) are as follows. Please contact Human Resources for specific plan information:


Subject to the provisions set forth hereafter, participation in the Plan shall begin on the first of the month following the first month of employment. If the employment date occurs on the first working day of the month, the benefit becomes effective immediately and shall be based on the following:

An active employee who meets all of the following requirements is required to participate in the Plan and must submit an application to the Office of Human Resources:

  1. He or she is ordinarily scheduled to work 1) not less than 20 hours per week or the academic instructional equivalent and not less than 9 months in a pension plan year or 2) not less than 1,000 hours in a pension plan year. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an active employee will be treated as having satisfied this requirement if such employee worked 1,000 hours in the one-year period commencing with the individual’s employment date or in any pension plan year.
  2. Eligibility of employees in a collective bargaining unit to participate in the Plan shall be subject to negotiations with the representative of that unit. During any period that an employee is covered by the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement between the College and such representative, he or she shall not be eligible for participation in this Plan unless the agreement expressly so provides. For purposes of this section only, such an agreement shall be deemed to continue after its formal expiration during collective bargaining negotiations pending the execution of a new agreement.

Any employee who is participating in a shared appointment and who meets requirements 1 and 2 must participate in the Plan and submit an application to the Office of Human Resources.

For accounting and reporting purposes, the pension plan year shall be the calendar year.

Plan Contributions

Employees contribute 2% of their salary and the College contributes an additional 10% for a total contribution of 12% of salary to the Retirement Plan.  Notwithstanding the preceding, the contribution on behalf of any participant cannot exceed the amounts permitted under IR Code 403(b)(12).

Each participant shall make a contribution of not less than 2 percent of his or her salary to the Plan as follows:

  1. Each participant must enter into an agreement with the College to reduce his or her salary by an amount equal to 2% for purposes of such contribution. Reduced amounts are tax deferred until benefits are paid out.
  2. In addition, each participant may, but is not required to do so, enter into an agreement with the College to make additional contributions for the purpose of acquiring additional benefits to reduce his or her annual compensation by a specified dollar amount not in excess of the amount permitted as a reduction under section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code.  The total does not include the 2% as referred to in 1 above.
  3. Participants over the age of 50 may defer an additional $6,000 unless the further excess amount is expressly permitted by the Code.  For participants with 15 years of service or more at Carleton College, an additional catch up contribution of $3,000 is possible.  Please contact human resources for specifics.  However, any such contribution may not be in excess of the amount permitted under Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code.

For purposes of this Article II, “salary” means base salary excluding overtime, bonuses, summer and other supplementary pay. In accordance with IRS Code 401(a) (17), salary taken into account under the plan cannot exceed amounts indexed per IRS Code 4l5(d)).

Leaves of Absence

During a leave of absence, contributions made by the College and by the individual will be based on the compensation paid to a participant during such time.


Each TIAA retirement annuity contract and CREF certificate is for the sole purpose of providing a retirement and/or death benefit and is the property of the individual participant.

Spouses’ Rights

Benefits may only be paid for married participants in the Plan under a qualified joint and survivor annuity or qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity meeting the requirements of the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, unless a written waiver of the benefit by the employee and a written consent to the waiver by the spouse is filed with TIAA-CREF. This provision applies to Repurchase, Retirement Benefits, and Death Benefits.

Cash Withdrawal

A participant who has attained age 55 may receive a cash withdrawal as permitted by the funding vehicle. Cash withdrawals may not be received while the participant is employed at Carleton College.  Amounts paid to the participant on cash withdrawal shall be in full satisfaction of the participant’s, and his or her spouse’s, rights to retirement and/or death benefits attributable to such amounts paid out.  A participant electing such a cash withdrawal should review tax consequences of the action with a TIAA-CREF representative and/or personal tax adviser prior to the transaction.

Annuity Income

Although annuity income usually begins on the normal retirement date, participants may begin to receive income from the plan at any time, which may be earlier or later than the normal retirement date. However, if a participant is employed by the College on the date when benefits under the plan commence, he or she will cease to be a participant of the plan and no further contributions will be made on his or her behalf.

Retirement benefits must normally begin no later than the calendar year in which the age of 70 1/2 is reached unless still employed by Carleton College. Failure to begin annuity income by the required beginning date may subject a participant to a substantial federal tax penalty. If still employed at Carleton College after age 70 1/2, a participant must begin distributions following termination of employment.

Effective Date

The effective date of this retirement plan shall be September 1, 1970. The plan is amended and restated as of July 1, 2009.

Tax Deferred Annuities and Custodial Accounts


Carleton College offers a Group Supplemental Tax-Deferred Annuity plan in addition to its regular retirement plan. Also for those employees who might prefer to use “403(b)7’s” as a means of tax deferral, the College processes 403(b)7 custodial accounts (available in the form of “mutual funds”). Through a properly drawn salary reduction agreement with the College, employees may reduce the portion of compensation which is currently subject to taxes, and contribute that amount toward the purchase of one of these tax-deferred investment options.

There is a limit to the amount of tax-deferred contribution the College can make on an employee’s behalf, called the “exclusion allowance.” There is an exact computation process which establishes the absolute maximum available to an employee for any given year. The Office of Human Resources will provide instructions for obtaining this important calculation from TIAA-CREF.


The vice president and treasurer is authorized to act on behalf of the College in connection with these annuities and custodial accounts and to establish such rules and regulations as deemed appropriate for them.

Regulatory Requirements

The College’s activities shall be limited to those permitted in Labor Department Regulation 25010.3-2(f) such that this program will not be deemed to be a pension plan maintained by the College and will not result in additional reporting obligations for the College.

Effective Date

The effective date of this program was September 1, 1992.

Last Revised: January 25, 2011

For: Staff, Faculty

Last Reviewed: November 14, 2018

Maintained by: Human Resources