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Penn State

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State is offering voluntary retirement packages to about 1,270 faculty and non-academic staff members in order to address "budgetary and ongoing workforce challenges."

That number accounts for about 4.7 percent of the university system's full-time workforce across 24 campuses in Pennsylvania, according to university employment statistics. Eligible faculty or staff have until Sept. 30 to decide whether to accept the packages, which will offer a one-time, lump-sum payment of 100 percent of the employee's annual base salary.

The university said in a statement that the packages will be offered to about 590 faculty members, including research assistants and academic administrators, such as assistant deans and department chairs.

About 340 of those deemed eligible are from the university's other campuses around the state, including more than 200 faculty and more than 130 staff.

Eligible candidates were selected based on years of service and other factors, including the university's business needs and ensuring that educational and research activities are not interrupted.

"This plan will allow Penn State to provide a substantial benefit to eligible faculty and staff who choose to participate, and will allow units across the university to be active in addressing budgetary and ongoing workforce challenges," PSU President Eric Barron said in a statement.

Penn State officials said they don't have a plan to offer a future voluntary retirement package, but noted that "scaling back staffing through attrition is not unfamiliar to the university." A package was offered "in recent years" in the College of Agricultural Sciences, in Penn State Outreach and in the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Each was a strategic decision, the university said.

Other state universities have offered faculty and staff similar early retirement programs.

The University of Pittsburgh had about 350 employees accept a package in June 2012. The program saved the university $16 million.

University spokeswoman Lisa Powers on Wednesday said she did not have immediate numbers on what Penn State's potential savings are projected to be as a result of the buyout.

The university plans to replace retiring employees "where student needs demand it," Powers said.

"Each area will be reviewed to ensure that educational quality and service are preserved - so it will be done on a case-by-case basis," Powers said.