Defined Contribution Program

Defined under IRS code 403(b) and 401(a), the Retirement Benefit to be received under the Plan depends upon factors such as the amount of funds contributed, the investment returns on the funds contributed to over time, and the distribution or withdrawal option selected at the time of retirement.  403(b) refers to the IRS rules governing the Individual Contribution, while 401(a) refers to the IRS rules governing the Employer Contribution. Review the Summary Plan Description of these plans:

401(a) and 403(b) Retirement Plan Summary Plan Description


The following job classes are eligible for the Defined Contribution Program with a University match:

Full-Time Faculty

Full-Time Librarians

Full-Time Research Associates

Regular Full-Time Staff (non-union)

Part time Faculty in the tenure stream or tenured for no less than 50% effort. 

Part time Regular staff (non-union)

Union Employees as stated in their Collective Bargaining Agreement

Enroll or make changes

At any time, you may wish to consider the following actions:

  • Manage Your Contributions: Increase or decrease the amount being withheld from your paycheck. This can be done monthly and as often as you prefer by making the change online through the University Portal. If you select the effective date to be the first available paycheck, please refer to the University payroll schedule for timing details. If you select a future effective date, you are selecting a future date to make a salary deferral agreement and the payroll schedule still applies. For example; if you are a monthly paid employee and you make a salary deferral agreement effective for a future date of September 10, the change will first take effect in your October paycheck.
  • Manage Your Account: Update beneficiaries, view account balances, enroll in ROTH option, change funds of future contributions, transfer monies between investment options, get advice on investing, or register for eDelivery of statements and communication.
  • Enroll in the Accelerated Benefit: Learn more about the Accelerated Benefit option

IRS Annual Limits on Contributions

The amount a person may tax-defer in a calendar year is regulated by the IRS, and is referred to as the Regular Annual Limit. The maximum annual limit on voluntary pre-tax contributions made by employees to 403(b) plans for 2017 is $18,000 or up to 100% of compensation, whichever is less. The limit for 2018 is $18,500 or up to 100% of compensation, whichever is less.

Employees who will be age 50 or older by the end of 2018 are eligible to make an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution to 403(b) plans on a pre-tax basis for 2018.

The 15-year catch-up may also be available to employees who have worked for the University for 15 or more years. Participants who have not yet exhausted their $15,000 lifetime limit under this provision may be entitled to contribute up to an additional $3,000 per year for up to 5 years, depending on their circumstances. Years of service and prior contributions are factored into an IRS calculation to determine eligibility. If you have 15 years of service, and are interested in electing the 15-year catch-up, please contact the Benefits Office to review your eligibility.

If an individual participates in any other qualified retirement plan during a calendar year, he / she will need to be aware of two limits. First, the annual limits (as discussed above) apply to all 403 (b) and 401 (k) pre-tax contributions made by you during any calendar year. New hires and employees with a second job need to take contributions under the other employer's plan into account before making an election under the University's plan. Second, if you own more than 50% of a trade or business (such as a consulting practice) that sponsors a retirement plan (including a Keogh plan), your total contributions under that plan and the 403 (b) plan may not exceed the "415 limit" ($54,000 for 2017, $55,000 for 2018). To change your contribution to the University’s plan, please log into the on-line enrollment system.


The University has established a Retirement Oversight Committee (ROC) that monitors the investments, the recordkeeper and administrator, and conducts regular due diligence meetings to confirm that proper plan oversight is in place. The ROC also operates under a formal committee charter to insure that responsibilities are clearly set forth and that the committee is empowered to provide monitoring of the Plan.

The ROC:

  • Is committed to acting solely in the interest of plan participants
  • Follows an investment policy statement
  • Has engaged an independent investment advisor in the selection and monitoring of investment options
  • Conducts regularly scheduled, formal investment committee meetings fulfilling its responsibilities
  • Reviews investment performance and associated fees
  • Has updated Plan provisions over time to enhance the overall administration and effectiveness of the Plan

The Plan:

  • Utilizes open investment architecture (options from investment managers other than the recordkeeper)
  • Allows participants to diversify their investment selections in a variety of asset classes
  • Provides a balance of index and actively managed funds in these asset classes to allow participants to establish an asset allocation that meets their goals
  • Operates in accordance with Plan documents

Questions or Concerns

If you ever have any questions or concerns about your retirement savings plan or the service you receive from TIAA, our recordkeeper, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Human Resources’ Benefits Department at 412-624-8160 or email for assistance.

Summary of the Plan

Basic Contribution

The Basic Contribution refers to an amount, between 3% and 8% that a participant may contribute of their monthly base salary.  The Basic Contribution also refers to the amount that is matched by the University.

Subject to a calculation based on IRS regulations, the entire Individual Basic Contribution Requirement may be processed as:

  • deferred from federal income taxation;
  • partially deferred with a portion being on a Roth after-tax basis;
  • or not deferred with the entire amount being on a Roth basis or after-tax basis. 

Learn more about the Roth 403(b) option

University Match

During the 3-year delayed vesting period, the University will match the participant's Basic Contribution (between 3% and 8%) dollar for dollar (100%).


Individual Contribution  3.0%  4.0% 5.0% 6.0% 7.0% 8.0%
University Matching Contribution  3.0%  4.0% 5.0% 6.0% 7.0% 8.0%
Total  6.0%  8.0% 10.0% 12.0% 14.0% 16.0%

Vesting Period

The Vesting Period under the Defined Contribution Program is approximately three years with a 1000 or more hours worked in each calendar year.   An individual is credited with 190 hours each month regardless of percent effort. The participant must be contributing to accrue vesting.  Most individuals vest in June of their third year of participation. 

After becoming vested, the participant may continue to contribute between 3% and 8% and the University match increases to a dollar and a half for every dollar (150%).  Vesting also means that the University’s match put into the 401(a) account will not be forfeited upon termination from the University. 


  Base Plan



Individual Contribution  3.0%  4.0% 5.0% 6.0% 7.0% 8.0% 8.0%
University Matching Contribution  4.5%  6.0% 7.5% 9.0% 10.5% 12.0% 14.5%
Total  7.5%  10.0%  12.5%  15.0% 17.5% 20.0% 22.5%

Accelerated Option

The Accelerated Retirement Option is available to fully vested participants starting at age 52 who are contributing at least 8% of their salary. An employee cannot elect this option at age 65 or older.  When an eligible participant joins the Accelerated Option, the University will increase its matching contribution from 12% to 14.5%.

This increase is effective for up to 120 months (10 years) or age 65, whichever comes first.

When the Accelerated Option ends, the participant may continue to make contributions, however the University match stops completely. Participants must actively elect to join the Accelerated Option through the on-line retirement enrollment system.  Please reference the 401(a) plan document for the information related to lowering your contribution after electing the accelerated option, and revocation of this election. 

Supplemental Contribution

Participants may have the option of contributing above their Basic Contribution, or more than the 8% level (also subject to the calculation based on IRS regulations).  This amount is a Supplemental Contribution.  A Supplemental Contribution is employee-only money (not matched by the University) and must be pre-tax or Roth. 

A Supplemental Contribution may also be available for individuals who are not eligible for the University Match through the Basic Contribution.  See the Universal Available Notice below for more information. 

Available Funds

The plan offers both TIAA and Vanguard funds.  Types of funds offered include guaranteed income, equities, real estate, fixed income, money market, and multi-asset funds.  A list of available funds, fund facts, and prospectus can be found at

Withdrawals and Distribution from the Defined Contribution Retirement Plan

Each retirement plan has very specific rules for taking withdrawal and distributions from your retirement account.  You can take money out of your account upon termination/resignation from the University.  You may be required to pay taxes and penalties if you take the money out before age 59.5.  Note: If you terminate/resign prior to being vested in the plan, the University’s matching contributions will be forfeited back to the plan, and only the assets in your 403(b) plan will be available to you. 

While you are still employed at the University, you will not be able to take a withdrawal or distribution from your account unless you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. You are at least age 62 and are no longer a Benefits Eligible Employee (this includes completion of the accelerated option)  
  2. You have entered into an official phased retirement agreement. 
  3. You are at least 59.5, you may take a distribution from your supplemental retirement plan only. 

What are the pros and cons of moving money from the Pitt plan?

Review this brochure from TIAA to learn about the facts of your money in the Pitt retirement savings plan.

Beneficiary information

You should periodically review your current beneficiaries, and make changes as appropriate. This can be done by going to your retirement account on-line through  Having a correct beneficiary designation will help ensure that your intentions are protected and your retirement savings are distributed according to your plans.

If you do not designate a beneficiary, your vested interests in the University of Pittsburgh 401(a) and 403(b) Retirement Plans could go to an unintended survivor. Be sure to review the beneficiary rules. 

Universal Availability

The University of Pittsburgh provides all employees with the opportunity to save for retirement through the 403(b) plan.  The University would like you to know more about how you can participate in the Plan. Whether you want to enroll in the Plan, or you are already enrolled but wish to change the amount of your deferral, you can accomplish your goal by filling out a “403(b) Salary Reduction Agreement” through the online enrollment system.  More information about this opportunity can be found by reviewing the availability notice.

For further details, or if you have questions, please contact the Benefits Department at 412-624-8160.

Vendor Contact Information

TIAA is the University's Retirement Plan record keeper.  They offer individual financial consulting appointments on the Oakland and Regional Campuses.  They also have licensed representatives who are available through their call centers.  

TIAA Contact Information
Telephone Counseling: (800) 682-9139
To Set Up a Personal Appointment by Telephone: (412) 365-3000
To Set Up a Personal Appointment via the Web:
TIAA Web Sites: or