403(b) Retirement Plan Changes

Effective July 1, 2016

Bennington College’s 403(b) retirement plan is a key aspect of our benefit offerings. The retirement plan is administered by TIAA and is comprised of two distinct components—(1) a defined contribution plan and (2) a voluntary, tax-deferred annuity (i.e., savings) plan.

Since 2011, the College has steadily increased its annual contribution to the defined contribution plan (for eligible employees) from 5.0% to the present College contribution of 7.5%, which represents a significant increase in annual cost for the institution. In addition, the College enhanced oversight of the plan by expanding the number of faculty and staff on the Retirement Plan Committee and hiring an outside consulting firm, Fiduciary Investment Advisors (FIA). Working in partnership, FIA and the Retirement Plan Committee (your colleagues) actively monitor and make decisions on behalf of the plan.

The purpose of this letter is to inform and help you prepare for the retirement plan changes scheduled for July 1, 2016. In summary, the College has elected to enhance fund selections by offering new investment options which represent best-in-class of both TIAA and non-TIAA funds based on historic performance and cost. To assist you with learning more about these changes, we invite you to attend a retirement plan information session—times and dates of these sessions are noted later in this letter.

Important Changes

Several months ago, the Retirement Plan Committee began an intensive review of the retirement plan; the Committee reviewed the investment options offered to participants, fund performance, associated fees, and overall plan design. After careful consideration, the Committee decided to implement select changes to the retirement plan—those we feel are in the best interest of participants.

We are therefore pleased to announce exciting changes to the Bennington College 403(b) Retirement Plan. Effective July 1, 2016, we will be moving to an “open architecture” platform,” where you will be able to select from a variety of professionally-managed, cost-effective and customized investment options. The investment offerings will include mutual funds other than just those offered by TIAA and include funds from a number of leading and well-known investment companies such as Vanguard, Eaton Vance, MFS, and American Funds, among others.

For continuity and simplicity, the Retirement Plan Committee felt it best to continue to use the services of TIAA-CREF as the single record-keeper for the retirement plan. The record-keeping arrangement through TIAA will provide a number of important benefits including:

  • streamlined education and communication intended to enhance your retirement plan decisions; and,
  • continued access to the TIAA Traditional and CREF Stock accounts, two of the most popular investment options with our employees.

What Does this Mean for You?

If you are enrolled in TIAA, you can expect the following:

  • Mid-June, 2016 | TIAA will officially roll out the new investment platform. You will be notified via email once the investment platform is “live” and accessible. Once the new investment platform becomes available, you are encouraged to review your current investment elections. It is important to note that some of the current investment options will no longer be available to participants after July 1, 2016.
  • On/Before July 1, 2016 | You are strongly encouraged to make new investment elections for (at a minimum) all contributions that will be deposited into your account after July 1, 2016. If you do not provide new investment instructions, all contributions received at TIAA after July 1, 2016, will be defaulted to the age-appropriate TIAA Target Date Funds.
  • Current Balances | For balances in existing investments, you will have the opportunity to move those balances into the new investment line-up. If you do not move your balance into the new investment line-up, your balance will remain in the existing fund until you decide to transfer it to another investment option.
  • New Contributions | As noted above, when the new investment line-up is introduced, you will have the opportunity to designate new investment options for contributions made after July 1, 2016. Again, if you do not designate new instructions, all contributions made after July 1, 2016, will be defaulted to the age-appropriate TIAA Target Date Funds.

Where Can You Go for Assistance? Employee Retirement Plan Information Meetings

To assist you with learning more about these changes, we will be holding retirement plan information sessions on April 18, April 19, and May 5, in CAPA Symposium.

  • April 18 | 10:00 am, noon, 1:00 pm, and 2:30 pm
  • April 19 | 9:00 am, 10:30 am, noon, and 2:00 pm
  • May 5 | 9:00 am, 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm

During these information sessions you will have the opportunity to hear about the changes directly from an independent consulting firm (Fiduciary Investment Advisors) and financial consultants at TIAA. A question and answer (Q&A) session will follow each information meeting. We strongly encourage all faculty and staff who are eligible to participate in the 403(b) Retirement Plan to attend an information session.

On behalf of the Bennington College Retirement Plan Committee, thank you for your attention to this very important matter. We look forward to seeing you at one of our scheduled information sessions in April and May.

Retirement Plan Committee

Christina Andrews, President’s Office
Paige Bartels, Institutional Advancement
Duncan Dobbelmann, Dean’s Office
Heather Faley, Human Resources
Michael Giannitti, Faculty
Brian Murphy, Business Office
Jonathan Pitcher, Faculty
Dwaine Stevens, Buildings & Grounds

Retirement Plan Transition | July 1, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is new and changing with the Retirement Plan?

Beginning July 2016, Bennington College will be offering new investment options for participants of the College’s 403(b) Retirement Plan.

Why is Bennington College making this change?

Recently, the College’s Retirement Plan Committee (comprised of faculty and staff from across the College), worked in partnership with Fiduciary Investment Advisors, an independent consulting firm not affiliated with any of the current investment providers, to conduct a review of the retirement plan. The Committee and FIA reviewed account fees, investment options, customer service, technology and financial education offered. After careful consideration and in the best interest of participants, select changes were determined.

Due to new regulations, a new plan document and summary plan description were developed and an evaluation of the current provider was done.

When and how will this transition occur?

We have worked with TIAA to ensure a smooth transition for you. In addition to this announcement letter and FAQ, the transition education will include:

  • Transition meetings on the campus: April 18, April 19, and May 5, 2016
  • A comprehensive transition guide (welcome package) mailed by TIAA to your home: June 13, 2016
  • Payroll deductions/contributions directed to new investment options or defaulted to the age-appropriate TIAA Target Date Funds: July 1, 2016

How do I learn more about the investment options offered through TIAA?

Keep an eye out for your transition package that will be mailed to your home in June. This package will highlight the new investment options and the transition process for current participants.

In addition, we encourage you attend the employee retirement plan informational meetings being held in CAPA Symposium on April 18, April 19, and May 5; see schedule above.

Can I make an appointment to meet one-on-one with a TIAA representative?

Employees who would like to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a representative of TIAA should call TIAA at 800-732-8353 to schedule an appointment.

The TIAA representative will also be on site and available to meet with employees in July and September, 2016.

Do I need to enroll with TIAA?

If you are currently employed by Bennington College and have an account in the Retirement Plan, you will not need to enroll with TIAA. An account will be automatically established for you, and your payroll-deducted contributions and/or employer contributions will be directed to the new investment options beginning with the first regular pay period after the July 1, 2016, pay date.

While current participants do not need to enroll (complete a new application) with TIAA, participants are encouraged to review the new investment options.

  • Participants should be reminded that certain CREF annuities will be frozen/restricted (no longer available) to new contributions, while other/certain annuities will remain open to new contributions. For balances in annuities that will be restricted, you will have the opportunity to move those balances into the new investment line-up. If you do not move your balance into the new investment line-up, your balance will remain in the restricted fund until you decide to transfer it to another investment option.
  • Participants are also encouraged to make investment elections for all new contributions received after July 1, 2016. If you do not provide re-allocation instructions, new contributions received at TIAA after July 1, 2016, will be defaulted to the age-appropriate TIAA Target Date Funds.

Will there be a Socially Responsible Investment Available in the new investment menu?

The College will continue to offer the CREF Social Choice option which selects investments that are comprehensively screened for environmental, social and governance (ESG) records. Please refer to the fund’s prospectus for more information.

Do I have to keep my existing assets with the current investment providers?

If you are invested in annuities, you have a choice of keeping your assets where they are or moving them over to the new investment options with TIAA. If you elect to move them over to the new investment options, you will receive guidance on how to complete this process during the information sessions offered in April and May.

You should consider the investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses of the mutual funds offered through a retirement plan carefully before investing. The prospectuses/prospectus summaries containing this and other information can be obtained by contacting your local TIAA representative. Please read the information carefully before investing.