The University announced a new retirement program Tuesday called the Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP). This voluntary program is available to all University Academic Division and College at Wise staff over 55 who have worked for the state for at least 20 consecutive years. Employees who take this option must retire between Aug. 1 and Oct. 1 of 2015. They will receive cash severance equaling nine months’ pay and a $9,000 subsidy for health care in addition to their retirement benefits. The option is only being offered this year, and employees must enroll between May 4 and June 14. There are about 6,000 University employees to whom this option is available. Among them are information technology staff, administrators and housekeeping. However, ERIP is not intended for faculty use. "The Early Retirement Incentive Program is a voluntary plan that will offer nearly 800 University staff members, who meet the age and eligibility requirements, the opportunity to retire if they choose to do so,” University President Teresa A. Sullivan said. Susan Carkeek, University chief human resources officer, said the University was offering ERIP because of large staff feedback in favor of retirement and a need for institutional reorganization. “Staff … are interested in retiring but have found the financial barriers difficult to overcome,” Carkeek said. Carkeek said the additional retirements will allow for organizational changes within the University, and provide an opportunity to increase institutional efficiency. To this end, Carkeek said the University would combine positions and departments where possible. “[It’s] an opportunity for us to look at restructuring jobs,” she said. “[We want to] make better use of tuition and tax dollars.” Carkeek said the University periodically incentivizes retirement in order to facilitate staff restructuring, but that the last time it was done was decades ago. She said the main reason ERIP is being offered as a one-time offer right now is because of the current for reorganization. Employees eligible to participate were notified Tuesday. Except in unusual cases, employees who opt to accept ERIP are not eligible for future employment by the University.