Optional Retirement Plan (ORP)

The ORP  is a defined contribution plan offered to faculty, appointed staff and service professionals as an alternative to state-sponsored defined benefit plans like ASRS. Retirement benefits are based on the total accumulation of funds, including any investment gains or losses.

Effective date

If you elect the ORP within 30 days of  eligibility, your contributions will begin on the first day of the pay period following your completed election. A completed election includes: 

  • electing the ORP as your primary retirement plan 
  • selecting an investment provider (TIAA CREF or Fidelity)
  • making your investment elections 
Enroll in ORP


You contribute 7% of your gross salary through payroll deduction. NAU matches at 7%. NAU pays for long-term disability coverage.

Contribution Limits

The following retirement plan limits apply to Optional Retirement Plan and contributions must stop once the employee reaches either of these fiscal year limits.

Maximum Compensation 

Employee and employer contributions can only be made on eligible compensation up to the annual IRS limits. When an employee meets the limit in the fiscal year, contributions stop. Compensation limits may change each fiscal year.

Year Limit for participants enrolled:
on or before June 30 1996after June 30, 1996 

Contribution Amount

The maximum contribution for an employee in a fiscal year cannot exceed the IRS limit.  Contributions include both employee and employer contributions: 

YearContribution Limit 

( Employer & Employee)



Vesting refers to the requirement of service before “owning” all funds in your account. In the case of pre-retirement separation from university employment you may withdraw or transfer vested contribution upon separation from employment. 
Your ContributionsUniversity Contributions
You are always 100% vested in your own contributionsYou are 100% vested in the university's contributions after 5 years of service
Exception: For an academic year employee you are 100% vested at the end of the fifth full academic year.

If you leave the university before you meet vesting qualifications, you relinquish the employer contributions.

Immediate vesting

Immediate vesting may be available to qualifying new employees. For example, if a new employee already has an active retirement account (funds on deposit) through another institution of higher education, that employee is immediately vested at Northern Arizona University. Contact Human Resources for more information.

University Contributions

The university contributions are held in trust until vesting qualifications are met. 

  • Employer contributions (plus interest, calculated at the rate of interest earned by the university’s general fund) are sent to your provider in a lump sum as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days following the vesting date.  
  • Afterwards, the employer contribution is credited to the employee's account each payday, at the same time as the employee contribution.  


You select one of the plan’s investment managers. Each investment manager offers a broad array of investment options from which you can choose. Contact the investment manager’s representative for more information of the funds and services offered or go to the investment manager website to learn more.

Benefits at retirement

Your retirement benefit is based on the performance of the investments you select. The ultimate account balance is a result of the amount of contributions deposited to the ORP account and the performance of your chosen investments.