David Yukelson didn’t waste time deciding to accept Penn State’s voluntary retirement incentive offer.
“I looked at my wife and said, ‘Whoa,’ ” Yukelson said, thinking back to the first day of September when he got the offer of a full year’s salary if he retired on either Dec. 31 or June 30.
Yukelson became one of 419 faculty and staff members at University Park who accepted the offer. Across Penn State’s other campuses, 168 more took the deal.
All told, 46 percent of those eligible accepted — more than the university expected.
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The pay and benefits of those retiring amount to $67 million, the university said, and notable changes are expected to follow their departures.
The vacancies will lead to “reorganizing some aspects of the university” and “hiring a more diverse faculty and staff who will bring new skills, talents and experiences,” said Penn State spokeswoman Heather Robbins.
As for payroll savings after the payouts and new hiring, Robbins said, “There is not yet a complete picture of the financial impact to the university.”
James Strauss, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said achieving a diverse faculty has been a high priority for decades at Penn State.
While the Faculty Senate didn’t play a role in the incentive package being offered, Strauss said, he is looking forward to the “strategic realignment.”
“It represents both a challenge and opportunity for colleges and the department level,” he said. “You lose very good people, (but) the opportunity allows you to strategically realign some of your academic programs, course offerings and research.”
At University Park, 134 of those who took the retirement offer were on the faculty.
Strauss said colleges and departments have already begun looking at prospective new faculty. He projected that Penn State will be “up to speed” in two or three years.
Retirement program acceptance rates tend to be about 30 to 35 percent, Robbins said. Ohio University offered a similar retirement incentive offer this past academic year and had a 25 percent acceptance rate.
The retirement plan offered those eligible a “one-time, lump sum payment of 100 percent of the employee’s annual base salary,” according to a university news release.
The offer was made to faculty who were at least 62 years old and had worked full time at the university for at least 15 consecutive years, and to staff who were at least 60 years old and had the same amount of service.
Yukelson said he was brought to State College by former football coach Joe Paterno. He has served as the sports psychologist with the Morgan Academic Support Center for student-athletes since 1988.
Although Yukelson is retiring in June, 102 faculty and staff members left the university at the end of 2016.
Mark Fischer is a Penn State journalism student.