State Universities Retirement System (SURS)

SURS is the retirement administrator for employees in public higher education in the State of Illinois. Participation is mandatory if you are eligible. When you become eligible, you will make a one-time, irrevocable election among three available retirement benefit plans. Benefits in retirement depend on your assigned Tier and your plan election. See the SURS website for full details.

If you previously worked for the University or another SURS-covered employer, you will resume contributions to the SURS plan you chose when you first became an eligible participant; you will not have an opportunity to select a different plan.

For Employees New To SURS

If you are newly eligible for SURS, you have six months from your date of eligibility to make your plan election. After six months, you will default into the Traditional Plan. Your election, or default, is a lifetime, irrevocable and unchangeable decision. Be sure to:

  • Read the materials SURS mails to your home.
  • Attend a SURS Plan Choice Webinar.
  • See New to SURS for a step-by-step guide to choosing your plan, and answers to common questions from new participants.

The information packet SURS mails to you will also contain an enrollment form, which you can mail to SURS to make your plan selection. The packet will also contain instructions for making your selection online.

Eligibility

Participation in SURS is required if you are eligible. You are eligible if you work continuously for at least one academic term or four months, whichever is less, and your employment is not temporary, intermittent or irregular.

You are not eligible for SURS if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are a student who regularly attends classes at a college or university participating in SURS and you are employed on a temporary part-time basis.
  • You were employed under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act on or after July 1, 1979.
  • You hold a J-1 or F-1 visa and have not established residency.
  • You first became a SURS member (or other eligible Illinois reciprocal system) prior to 1/1/2011 and you are currently receiving a retirement annuity.
    • Important: If you first became a SURS member (or other eligible Illinois reciprocal system) on or after 1/1/2011 you are subject to a different provision. When receiving an annuity and you return to work, your annuity will be suspended and you will again contribute to SURS.

Tier I and Tier II Employees

You participate in either SURS Tier I or Tier II depending on your first date of eligibility, as outlined in the SURS Retirement Plans chart. Employees who were certified as SURS-eligible prior to January 1, 2011, participate in Tier I. Employees who were certified as SURS-eligible on or after that date participate in Tier II.

Contributions

Police and firefighters may be eligible for special contribution rates, and should consult the appropriate SURS Member Guides.

Mandatory 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 elected. The State of Illinois Employer Contributions also vary based on your plan.

Please be aware that while eligible for SURS, you are not covered by Federal Social Security, and Social Security taxes are not withheld from your university earnings. Read the Statement Concerning Your Employment in a Job Not Covered by Social Security.

Employees hired on or after April 1, 1986, are subject to withholding of the Federal Medicare tax, which amounts to 1.45% of Medicare eligible salary.

To understand more about how SURS is funded, see SURS Funding Fact Sheet.

Plan Options & Summary

Please see the SURS website for detailed information on each SURS retirement plan option and additional information about participating in SURS. The plan summary chart provides a brief comparison.

SURS offers two Defined Benefit plans, and one Defined Contribution plan. All SURS retirement plans are 401(a), non-ERISA plans.

A Defined Benefit Plan provides you with a specific, guaranteed amount when you retire. The amount you receive is based on a formula which takes into account your years of service and salary history. The State of Illinois employer contribution is actuarially determined each year, and can vary from year to year. It is approximately 9.1% of earnings at the time of retirement and is used to fund your retirement benefit and your eligibility for disability benefits. SURS offers two Defined Benefit plans:

  • The Traditional Plan allocates 6.50% of your pay to your retirement, 0.50% to an automatic annual increase, and 1.00% to a survivor benefit used in the event of your death.
  • The Portable Plan allocates 6.50% of your pay to your retirement, 0.50% to an automatic annual increase, and 1.00% to portability, allowing for a larger refund if you leave SURS before retirement.

A Defined Contribution Plan does not provide a guaranteed amount at retirement. Instead, your contributions will be placed into an investment account, and retirement income will be based on the account balance. You bear the full risk in a Defined Contribution plan, as you have control over your account and your investment choices.

  • Under the SURS Self-Managed Plan, you contribute 8.0% of earnings, and the state contributes 7.6%—of which up to 1% is used to provide you with eligibility for disability benefits.

You have six months from your initial date of eligibility to choose one of the SURS plans. This election is irrevocable – it cannot ever be changed, even if you leave SURS-covered employment. If you leave employment with the University and you are employed in the future by a participating SURS employer, you will again participate in your original plan selection. If you fail to make your SURS plan election within the 6-month period, then you will default into the Traditional Plan, and be unable to change plans.

Resources

Questions?

Eligibility & Payroll Deductions

If you have questions about your eligibility for SURS, or questions about your SURS payroll deductions, contact University Payroll & Benefits.

Self-Managed Plan Account

If you participate in the SURS Self-Managed Plan (SMP), Fidelity Investments and TIAA can help with general questions about your investment account. See SURS SMP for your preferred vendor’s contact information.

Other Questions

For all other questions, contact SURS.

The information contained on this site is summarized for general education only and should not be considered a substitute for information from SURS. The Illinois Pension Code enacted by the Illinois General Assembly is the official authority and original reference source of SURS. Review all information provided by SURS when making your plan election. Additional information for SURS participants can be found on the SURS website or by contacting SURS. You are advised to contact SURS directly for specific information about your benefits.