Benefit and Employment Differences Between USS and UPS

Frequently Asked Questions

The entire suite of benefits is available to any benefits-eligible employee and includes health, prescription drug, dental and vision insurance; Health and/or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts; Health Savings and Health Reimbursement Accounts; Mandatory and Voluntary Retirement Plans; basic and optional group life insurance; and long-term disability insurance.

  • Mandatory retirement plans
  • Phased Retirement Plan - to be eligible to participate in this plan, the employee must be an active participant in the Kansas Board of Regents Mandatory 403(b) Retirement Plan.
  • Long-term disability plan.

Employees in University Support Staff positions participate in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) defined benefit program.  The membership Tier is based on hire date and employer contributions to KPERS are determined by the legislature. 

Employees in Unclassified Professional Staff positions participate in the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) Mandatory 403(b) defined contribution retirement plan by selecting investments in either TIAA-CREF or Voya.  The employee contributes 5.5% of gross salary and the university contributes 8.5% of gross salary and vesting occurs immediately.

Because KPERS is a defined benefit plan and KBOR is a defined contribution plan, benefits from those plans are determined differently.  For KPERS, the retirement benefit is determined by a formula that uses your age, final average salary and years of KPERS service and not how much you contributed to KPERS. For the KBOR plan, your retirement benefit is determined by your account balance when you begin taking distribution, your age and the retirement income option(s) you choose.

Special provisions that apply to KPERS retirement plan participants only:

  • When an active KPERS member dies from an on-the-job accident, the spouse will receive a monthly benefit based on 50 percent of the employee’s final average salary, less any Workers’ Compensation (minimum benefit is $100 per month).
  • KPERS retirees receive a retiree death benefit that pays the beneficiary a $4,000 lump-sum death benefit.

If changing employee categories/classes, the employee has a one-time retirement plan election: the employee can elect to remain with the existing retirement plan or switch to the retirement plan associated with the new position.  (For example, a University Support Staff employee in KPERS who accepts an Unclassified Professional Staff position can elect to either remain with KPERS or switch to the KBOR Mandatory Retirement Plan.)

An employee electing to switch retirement plans cannot access funds from the former retirement plan until termination of employment.  To access KPERS funds, all state of Kansas employment must be terminated; to access KBOR funds, all employment within the state university system/Board Office must be terminated.  For additional information about KPERS and guaranteed retirement benefits if you are vested, as well as information if you are not vested, please see information on the KPERS webpage.  To find out which KPERS Tier you are in, see the KPERS annual statement that can be accessed by logging in to the KPERS members’ portal. Contributions in KPERS will continue to accrue interest as long as there is not a break in service and until you retire or leave State of Kansas employment. Contributions in the 403(b) plan will continue to be invested according to the employee’s fund allocation.

Many of the features of the state of Kansas long-term disability plan are the same for both KPERS and KBOR participants, such as:

  • Eligibility
  • Duration of KPERS-provided long-term disability coverage (KPERS administers the long-term disability plan for all benefits-eligible employees, whether in KPERS or the KBOR Mandatory Retirement Plan)
  • KPERS disability income benefit which is equal to 60 percent of the current salary on the date the disability occurred (monthly benefit minimum is $100 and maximum is $5,000)
  • Requirement to apply for Social Security disability benefits and complete any appeal process
  • Continuation of basic group life insurance coverage paid for by KU; optional group life insurance can continue with the employee paying the premium

Active KPERS participants who are approved for long-term disability benefits will continue to receive KPERS service credit and, after five years, the participant’s final average salary will be recalculated.

Active KBOR participants who are approved for long-term disability benefits will receive a KBOR long-term disability benefit in addition to the 60% KPERS long-term disability benefit.  Employee contributions to the KBOR Mandatory Retirement plan will cease, but KU will make the entire 14% contribution to the Retirement Plan.  Those employer contributions will cease at the earliest of:

  1. The date eligibility for KPERS long-term disability benefits ends, or
  2. The date that the participant dies, or
  3. Five years after the date that the participant became disabled and began receiving benefits under the KPERS long-term disability benefit program

Certain participants may qualify to receive the 14% employer contribution to the Retirement Plan after five years, based on length of participation in the KBOR Mandatory Retirement Plan. For more information, see the KBOR long-term disability benefit information (pdf).

No, unclassified professional staff are not eligible for a longevity bonus. However, as a common practice, when a university support staff moves to an unclassified professional staff position the current longevity bonus amount becomes part of the starting base salary for the unclassified professional staff appointment. If the movement to an unclassified professional staff position occurs as part of the 2013-2015 staff Classification/Market Study, the staff member will have a slight increase in his/her biweekly rate of pay as a result of making the longevity bonus part of the base salary. If that increase does not equal the full amount of the longevity bonus for which he/she is eligible during the fiscal year of the transition, the staff member will be granted a one-time payment to make up the difference.

If funds are available, unclassified professional staff annual salary increases have been traditionally merit-based. Within the amount allocated by the University, deans or directors recommend individual merit increases through budgetary channels. Some units may be authorized to supplement the merit increase pool with their own funds. 

If funds are available, university support staff increases are a combination of across-the-board and merit increases. Usually 2/3 of the amount allocated by the University is provided as an across-the-board increase. From the remaining 1/3 amount allocated by the University, deans or directors recommend individual merit increases through budgetary channels. Salary increases for staff covered by a memorandum of agreement must comply with any applicable provisions of the agreement. Some units may be authorized by the Provost Office to supplement the merit increase pool with their own funds.

Both hourly (non-exempt) university support staff and unclassified professional staff are eligible for compensatory time at the rate of 1.5 hours for all hours worked over 40 hours within the defined pay period.  Neither salaried (exempt) university support staff nor salaried unclassified professional staff are eligible for compensatory time if they work over 40 hours.  For more information, please review the Overtime Compensation Policy.

There are some differences for holiday compensatory time when staff  work on a holiday. Both categories of hourly (non-exempt) staff are compensated at the rate of 1.5 hours for all hours worked on a holiday. Salaried (exempt) university support staff are compensated at the rate of 1.5 hours for all hours worked on a holiday. However, salaried (exempt) unclassified professional staff are compensated on an hour-for-hour basis for all hours they are required to work on a holiday. For more information, please review the Holiday Policy.

Yes, however, a probationary period upon promotion is discretionary for both employee categories. For more information, please review the Policy on Probationary Periods for University Support Staff and Unclassified Professional Staff.

University support staff may be subject to layoff with commensurate layoff rights. For more information, please review the Layoff Policy/Procedures for University Support Staff.

Unclassified professional staff have appointments that are annually renewed but may be subject to a notice of non-reappointment. For more information, please review the Notice of Nonreappointment for Unclassified Professional Staff (UPS) Policy.

University support staff who are not serving on a probationary period may appeal suspensions, demotions, or dismissals to the University’s Disciplinary Action Hearing Board. For more information, please review the Disciplinary Action Hearing Board for University Support Staff Guidelines.

An unclassified professional staff may appeal to his/her hierarchy and via the conflict resolution process provided by University policy. For more information, please review the Index to Dispute Resolution Procedures for Unclassified Professional Staff (UPS).

*An accessible version of the PDFs on this site will be made available upon request. Please contact our office at hrdept@ku.edu to request the document be made available in an accessible format.