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State Universities Retirement System (SURS)

For eligible employees, SURS participation begins on your first day of employment and requires a mandatory contribution to the retirement plan. Eight percent (8%) of your gross earnings is automatically deducted from your paycheck. The University contributes a percent of your salary into your retirement account. The contributions you make to SURS will not be subject to Federal taxes until you begin to withdraw funds following your retirement. Qualified distributions are not taxed by the State of Illinois. For further information on the taxation of SURS distributions, please visit the State Taxation of Retirement Income page.

An employee who first becomes a SURS member (or other eligible Illinois reciprocal system) on or after 1/1/2011 is considered a Tier 2 member under the retirement plan. It is important for you to review and understand the plan options available to you as a Tier 2 member. Please view the SURS summary chart for an overview of Tier 2 benefits.

Current Pension Legislation - Legislation introduced in State General Assembly, which may impact the State pension systems, including SURS.

SURS Tier 2 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Participation in SURS is required 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 to be covered by SURS if:

  • 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.*

* Please note 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.

Types of Plans

SURS offers a choice of three different plan options:

Two Defined Benefit Plans
1. Traditional Plan
2. Portable Plan

One Defined Contribution Plan
3. Self-Managed Plan (SMP)

Selecting a Plan

You have six months from your initial date of employment to select one of the three plans. This is a lifetime, irrevocable decision. After SURS is notified about your employment, they will send you a detailed Choice Packet to your home address. Note: If you do not make this decision within six months of your date of hire, you will automatically be enrolled in the Traditional Benefit Package. This default enrollment is also irrevocable.

Your choice of plans will determine the SURS benefits available to you for life and cannot be changed or revoked. For example, if you leave employment with the University and you are employed in the future by a participating SURS employer, you will be required to participate in your original plan selection.

For assistance in selecting the SURS plan option that is right for you, view the SURS Plan Choice Video, participate in a Plan Choice Webinar and review the SURS Retirement Planning Workbook. Pages 4 through 13 of the workbook provide a detailed overview of the differences between the plans.

It is important to know which tier you are in so that you consider the options available to you. An employee who first becomes a SURS member (or other eligible Illinois reciprocal system) on or after 1/1/2011 is considered a Tier 2 member under the retirement plan. Employees who are SURS (or other eligible Illinois reciprocal system) participants prior to 1/1/2011 are considered Tier 1 members. Consider the features in the tier that applies to you including the following: Minimum Vesting, Normal Retirement Age (without age reduction), Earliest Retirement Age (with age reduction), Age Reduction, Final Rate of Earnings (FRE), FRE Limits, Retirement Benefits Automatic Annual Increase (AAI), Death Benefits, Survivor Benefits, Survivor AAI and Retiree Health Benefits.

How to Enroll

Eligible employees are automatically enrolled in SURS when employment begins; however you must make a selection from one of the three plan options (Traditional, Portable, or Self-Managed). You will receive a packet of information in the mail from SURS to make your plan selection. Complete the plan selection form in your packet and mail in the self-addressed envelope to SURS within 6 months of your date of hire.

Note: If selecting the Self-Managed Plan, the employer (State) contributions will only begin with the first full payroll period after SURS receives your SMP election.

SURS and Social Security

Federal Social Security does not cover University of Illinois employees eligible for SURS because the University does not contribute to the Social Security System. No Social Security taxes are withheld from your earnings. The only way to receive Social Security retirement benefits is if you have worked for other employers who have contributed to the Social Security System. However, under the Social Security law, there are two ways your SURS pension may affect or reduce any Social Security benefit. Please carefully read the Statement Concerning Your Employment in a Job Not Covered by Social Security.

Further Information

Register for a SURS webinar or seminar

SURS Summary Chart - for an overview of Tier 2 benefits.

SURS Retirement Planning Workbook - for assistance in selecting the SURS Plan option that is right for you.

Seminars, Webinars & Counseling - find opportunities to learn more about the retirement plans, including information on requesting an appointment with a SURS counselor.

Plan Contact Information - phone, address, and web contacts for each retirement plan.

SURS Pension Reform Frequently Asked Questions - information regarding the changes to the State of Illinois Pension Code (Public Act 96-0889) that impact the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), effective January 1, 2011.

State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA) - advocacy group for SURS participants.

State of Illinois Retiree, Annuitant and Survivor Benefits Handbook - a booklet providing information about State benefits.

This information is provided with the understanding that it is a source of information and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice. If legal advice or other professional assistance is required, the services of a professional advisor should be sought.

Maintained by University Human Resources | Contact Information | Last Update: 08-January-2018 | ID: 127