SURS Retirement

NIU employees have access to retirement benefits through the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). You can also choose to participate in a supplemental retirement plan with an approved vendor. When the time comes, we'll help you learn how to retire.

Please note: Since NIU employees don't pay into Social Security, you won't be eligible for Social Security coverage based on your employment at NIU. You will pay Medicare taxes.

Eligibility for SURS Pension Plans

Individuals must meet the definition of “employee” under section 15-107 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/15-107) to be certified as a SURS participant. 

Section 15-107 of the Illinois Pension Code defines an “Employee” as any member of the educational, administrative, secretarial, clerical, mechanical, labor, or other staff of an employer whose employment is permanent and continuous or who is employed in a position in which services are expected to be rendered on a continuous basis for at least four months or one academic term, whichever is less, who (A) received payment for personal services on a warrant issued pursuant to a payroll voucher certified by an employer and drawn by the State Comptroller upon the State Treasurer or by an employer upon trust, federal or other funds, or (b) is on a leave of absence without pay.

You're not eligible if any of the following apply:

  • You're a student enrolled in and regularly attending classes at a college or university that participates in SURS and are employed on a part-time, temporary basis.
  • You're currently receiving a retirement or disability annuity.
  • You’re on a military leave of absence.
  • You’re eligible to participate and are making contributions to the Federal Civil Service Retirement system.
  • You’re on a leave of absence without pay for more than 60 days immediately following termination of disability benefits.
  • You're employed under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act after July 1, 1979.
  • You’re employed after July 1, 1991 to perform services that are excluded by Section 210 of the federal Social Security Act.
  • You hold a F, J, M or Q visa and have not yet established Permanent Residency status or met the Substantial Presence Test.

SURS Pension Plans

If eligible, you must enroll in one of three SURS retirement plans:

  • Traditional Plan: a defined benefit plan that provides a survivor benefit at no additional cost. However, the separation refund is less generous than the Portable Plan.
  • Portable Plan: a defined benefit plan similar to the Traditional Plan with a more generous separation refund. However, the provisions for survivor benefits require reduced retirement and death benefits.
  • Retirement Savings Plan (self-managed): a defined contribution plan to which you and the state of Illinois contribute. It allows you to choose from a variety of investment opportunities.

If eligible, required contributions to your SURS plan, 8% of pensionable earnings, are deducted from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis. How your contributions are allocated varies depending on which plan you elect. The State of Illinois Employer Contributions also vary based on your plan.

You'll need to enroll in a plan within six months of your start date. If you don't, you'll be defaulted in the Traditional Plan. Your choice or the default is final and cannot be changed.

Enrollment in SURS Pension Plans

You'll enroll in a retirement plan through SURS. SURS will mail information to your home address or you may find out more about the plans on the SURS website. You must choose your plan within six months of your start date. Your choice is final and cannot be changed.

You can indicate your choice by returning the election form mailed to you or by making your selection online on the SURS member website. You will need your SURS member ID to register on the website for the first time which will be included in the information mailed to you.  If you have not yet received the SURS information in the mail and want to enroll online, you can obtain your member ID by calling SURS at 1-800-ASK-SURS.

Please note: SURS uses a two-tiered system for its retirement plans. You're in tier I if you were hired or had reciprocal service with another Illinois pension before Jan. 1, 2011. If you were hired after that date, you're in tier II.

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