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This program is sponsored by the University of North Carolina system. The Board of Governors of The University of North Carolina is responsible for the administration of the ORP and designates the vendors authorized to offer investment products.

The University of North Carolina Optional Retirement Program (ORP) is an option or alternative to the North Carolina Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) for certain employees. Under the ORP, you control your investments choices, distribution methods and retirement goals, whereas the State controls the investments under TSERS.

The ORP is a defined contribution plan. The University has authorized TIAA as the vendor to offer investment products under the ORP. For more information about the authorized company or their products, including investment options, services and fees, you should contact a company representative. Additional information about the ORP plan can be found on the UNC System site.

You are eligible to join the ORP if you are permanent full-time employee working 30 or more hours per week for nine or more months per year on a recurring basis as a:

  • Faculty member with the rank of Instructor or above. Your faculty appointment may be a 9- or 12-month appointment, and need not be your primary appointment.
  • EHRA Non-Faculty employees (SAAO, Instructional and Research)
  • SHRA Employee hired after January 1, 2013

You are required to contribute 6 percent of your salary on a pre-tax basis (before State and Federal taxes), no more and no less. The plan is also funded by University contributions of 6.84 percent of your salary. You must complete the online mandatory retirement enrollment section at ConnectCarolina>Self Service>My Benefits>Benefits Enrollment (on left)>Mandatory Retirement Plans- for enrollment in the ORP. You have 30 calendar days from your date of employment or eligibility to complete the online mandatory retirement enrollment.

If you do not complete mandatory retirement enrollment process within 30 calendar days of your hire date or eligibility date, you will automatically be enrolled in the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System. Enrollment in TSERS will be irrevocable. Contributions begin on day one of eligibility and retroactive contributions are deducted in one lump sum. Once enrolled in TSERS or ORP, you may not change your election as it is irrevocable.

You are immediately 100 percent vested in the value of your employee contributions. The value of your employer contributions is 100 percent vested after five years of participation in the ORP.  If you terminate employment with less than five years of ORP participation, you will become 100% vested in the ORP employer contribution provided you meet all of the following requirements:

  • your new employer is a higher education institution that sponsors a substantially similar or “like” retirement plan,
  • the successor plan offers a “like retirement plan” that is underwritten by one of the four carriers currently underwriting the ORP benefit, and
  • you begin participation in that successor plan as your “core retirement plan” within 12 months following your termination of eligible service in the plan (usually your termination of employment) with The University of North Carolina.

Under the ORP, the amount of your monthly benefit is based on the total accumulation in your account(s) including any credited interest or dividends, your age, the age of your annuity partner, if applicable, and the income option selected. There are no age or service requirements to meet in order for a vested participant to begin receiving a benefit.

Each ORP carrier makes available optional forms of payments and a variety of retirement payment options designed to allow you to tailor-make your retirement payments to meet your financial needs. These may be fixed annuity payments or payments on a variable basis, or a combination thereof.

You may also elect to receive a lump sum distribution, as permitted by the ORP carrier(s). However, to be eligible to continue your State Health Plan coverage in retirement, you must begin to receive an ORP benefit on a monthly basis at retirement and this payment must be distributed directly from your ORP account. If you withdraw, transfer or rollover your entire ORP account, you will forfeit your right to the State’s retiree group health plan coverage.

When you retire and begin receiving monthly benefits from the ORP, you may also be eligible to enroll in the State Health Plan with the cost determined by when your employment started with the State:

  • If you were first hired prior to October 1, 2006, and retire with five or more years ORP participation, the State will pay either all or most of the cost if you select one of the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans, depending on the plan chosen.
  • If you were first hired on or after October 1, 2006, in order to receive individual coverage at no cost, you must retire with 20 or more years of retirement service credit; if you have 10 but less than 20 years of retirement service credit, you will have to pay 50 percent of the cost for your coverage, and with five but less than 10 years, you will have to pay the full cost for your coverage. In all cases, the full cost of dependent coverage, if elected, must be paid by you.
  • If you were first hired on or after January 1, 2021, there is no longer a retiree health insurance offered to you through the State of North Carolina.

If you withdraw, transfer or rollover your entire ORP account, you will forfeit your right to the State’s retiree group health plan coverage.

  • As a reminder for active members nearing retirement, Medicare becomes primary the last month that a retiring active member is covered by his or her agency and the Medicare reduced rate applies. Members should be aware of the Medicare primacy change and the need to elect Medicare Part B to be effective the date of their retirement.
  • In order for a retiree to be eligible for the Group Medicare Advantage Plans under the Retirement System, the retiree must be enrolled in Part A and B and they must have enrolled in their retirement benefit more than sixty days in advance of their coverage effective date.

Federal Tax

When you begin receiving an ORP retirement benefit, any pre-tax contributions made by you and the University, as well as any investment earnings on these contributions, are taxed as ordinary income. If any of your contributions were made on an after-tax basis, the portion of the retirement benefit attributable to these after-tax contributions will not be taxed. (Note: ORP employee contributions made prior to July 1, 1982, were made on an after-tax basis.)

State Tax

Effective January 2014, the amount of retirement annuity income subject to State income tax is the same amount on which federal income tax must be paid.

[Exception: If you were enrolled in the ORP on or before August 12, 1989, your ORP retirement benefits, no matter what amount, are exempt from State income tax.]