Faculty may choose between the Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) or the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for their retirement plan. This decision must be made within 60 days of employment or participation in the VRS retirement plan will automatically default. This decision is irrevocable.

Faculty members hired January 1, 2014 or later choose between the Optional Retirement Plan and the VRS Hybrid Retirement Plan.

Optional Retirement Plan (ORP)
The Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) is a defined contribution plan. This retirement plan is based on contributions and the investment gains and losses on those contributions. Generally, this type of plan is more portable than the defined benefit plan.

Enrolling in the ORP, the faculty member selects from one of three providers, Fidelity, TIAA, or DCP, and decides which investment options to select. Faculty may contact their vendors to change investment options at any time throughout the year. However, they may change between the investment vendors only during the annual open enrollment period that occurs in the fall.

Virginia Retirement System (VRS)
VRS provides a hybrid retirement plan and defined benefit retirement plans. Plan eligibility for each is determined by VRS membership date and employee type. In each plan, the university makes employer contributions that fund defined retirement benefits and members contribute five percent of their annual salary to their individual member accounts. Member contributions are made on a pre-tax basis.

VRS Hybrid Retirement Plan
Faculty who become members of VRS on January 1, 2014 or later participate in the hybrid retirement plan. ICMA-RC is the third party administrator for the VRS Hybrid Retirement Plan. This plan combines the features of a defined benefit plan and defined contribution plan:

  • The defined benefit portion of the plan provides a retirement benefit determined by age, creditable service and salary history. The defined benefit is not based on contributions to the account.
  • The defined contribution portion of the plan provides a retirement benefit that depends on the contributions made and the investment performance of the plan.


Faculty contribute a mandatory five percent of their annual salary to the Hybrid Retirement plan. Four percent is contributed to the defined benefit plan and the remaining one percent is contributed to the defined contribution plan. Faculty can also voluntarily contribute up to an additional four percent of their annual salary to the defined contribution plan. Increases and decreases to the voluntary contributions can be done on a quarterly basis. The university will match the employee’s voluntary contribution based on the set amount applied to the defined contribution plan.

VRS hybrid participants may retire under the defined benefit portion of the plan at their normal Social Security retirement age with at least five years of creditable service or when the sum of their age and years of creditable service equals at least 90. A reduced benefit is available at age 60 with five years of creditable service. Benefits from the defined contribution portion of the plan are available upon separation from state service, regardless of age; however, the percentage of employer matching contributions is dependent on the length of participation in the plan.

VRS Defined Benefit Plans: VRS Plan 1, VRS Plan 2

Faculty with VRS membership dates prior to January 1, 2014 participate in VRS defined benefit plans unless they opted to participate in the VRS Hybrid Retirement Plan between January 1 and April 30, 2014.

In the VRS defined benefit plans, the retirement benefit is based on a formula as described below - not on the accumulated contributions in the member's account. VRS defined benefit participants are eligible to retire with full benefits as follows:

VRS Plan 1 VRS defined benefit participants (excluding sworn Campus Police officers, see VaLORS below) who became members of VRS prior to July 1, 2010 and were vested in VRS as of January 1, 2013 participate in VRS Plan 1. They are eligible to retire at age 65 with five years of creditable service, or as early as age 50 with 30 years of creditable service. A reduced benefit is available at age 50 with 10 years of creditable service or at age 55 with five years of creditable service. The retirement amount is based on:

  • Average final compensation (average of highest 36 consecutive months of salary)
  • Years of service
  • Age at retirement


VRS Plan 2 VRS defined benefit participants (excluding sworn Campus Police officers, see VaLORS below) who became members of VRS between July 1, 2010 and December 31, 2013 or who were not vested in a VRS defined benefit plan as of January 1, 2013 participate in VRS Plan 2. They are eligible to retire at their normal Social Security retirement age with at least five years of creditable service or when the sum of their age and years of creditable service equals at least 90. A reduced benefit is available at age 60 with five years of creditable service. The retirement is based on:

  • Average final compensation (average of highest 60 consecutive months of salary)
  • Years of service
  • Age at retirement


Each year, VRS members receive Member Benefit Profiles indicating total contributions and interest in their accounts, including service credits.

Virginia Law Officers Retirement System (VaLORS) (Plan 1 or Plan 2) Campus Police sworn officers participate in VaLORS, which is a defined benefit plan with enhanced benefits for hazardous duty. VaLORS participants are eligible to retire at age 60 with five years of creditable service or as early as age 50 with 25 years of creditable service. A reduced benefit is available at age 50 with five years of creditable service. The retirement amount is based on:

  • Average final compensation (average of highest 36 or 60 consecutive months of salary)
  • Years of service
  • Age at retirement


Each year, VaLORS members receive Member Benefit Profiles indicating total contributions and interest in their accounts, including service credits.

Funds that members have contributed to their defined benefit member account may be refunded to them when they terminate employment.

Members who are vested in VRS or VaLORS (five or more years of service credit) and do not take a refund remain eligible for retirement benefits when they reach the minimum age threshold for their plan.

Members who take a refund of their member account forfeit accumulated service credits and eligibility for future retirement benefits. In some cases, they can purchase refunded service credit if they return to a VRS-covered position after taking a refund.

If you have questions about Retirement Benefits for Faculty contact a Human Resources Benefits Specialist or email benefits@jmu.edu.

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