In a continuing effort to reduce the number of faculty at the University of Montana to bring costs in line with enrollment, the administration has released its second round of the VERIP (Voluntary Employee Retirement Incentive Program).

Director of Communications Paula Short said this round of the incentive program focuses on employees between the ages of 60 and 64.

"The key difference is not that there is a not a specific increase in value per se, so much as because we are expanding the offer to those who are below Medicare eligibility, we are giving them the option to be able to pay for health insurance premiums with a portion of that 50 percent of their salary," Short said. "It's an opportunity to extend health coverage if we have faculty members who are interested in retirement, but they need a bridge to get to their healthcare being covered."

Short reiterated the need for the VERIP package.

"The VERIP is a tool in the toolbox here at the University of Montana. About 80 percent of our budget is currently allocated to personnel expenditures," she said. "That's a pretty high number. It doesn't leave a lot of additional room for investments and other strategies. Other tools include how we are using our adjunct faculty starting this fall, and how we're handling vacant positions that come open.

Short said VERIP is 100 percent voluntary and will be subject to each individual's choice.

"In the first offering, we had 14 individuals express an interest, and we're still in that period where they can opt in or out as they research and learn more about the program," she said. "We have an appropriation available to us to offer an expended program at this point."

Short said the Board of Regents has expressly directed the university to lower its percentage of personnel costs.

“The President mentioned in her State of the University address that we spend a very high amount on our personnel at better than 80 percent, it’s more like 81 percent now for salaries and benefits and that’s probably not a sustainable model moving forward, and so at this point all options are on the table,” she said. “How do we bring that number down? There’s natural attrition where people retire every year or they seek other opportunities, so this survey if just one of the tools at our disposal.”

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