Graduate Assistant Retirement Information | Academic Personnel | Kent State University

Graduate Assistant Retirement Information

This information is intended to assist you in understanding your retirement plan options here at Kent State University. It is important that you review these choices carefully as your selection may have long-term impact on your financial future.

Because Ohio has its own retirement systems for public employees, Ohio public institutions such as Kent State do not participate in the retirement portion of the federal Social Security system. State employees do contribute to the Medicare portion of Social Security; however, as students, graduate assistants are exempted by federal law from this taxation.

As a graduate assistant/student employee, Ohio law provides you with two choices regarding retirement. You may contribute to an Ohio retirement account or you may request exemption from retirement withholding. Unless you are a graduate teaching assistant and have current membership with State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS), retirement related to your student employment is governed by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS).

If you are a graduate teaching assistant with an open STRS account, you may choose to have either STRS or OPERS withheld; however, if you do not want to contribute to retirement, you are required to complete an STRS exemption form, not an OPERS one. Note: Graduate assistants are automatically denied new membership in STRS.

For more detailed information regarding retirement, you may visit the following websites:

After reviewing this information, please utilize the New Graduate Assistant Retirement Options/Step-by-Step Selection Instruction Sheet included in this packet. It will assist you in determining which retirement form to complete and submit. PLEASE SUBMIT ONLY ONE RETIREMENT FORM.

You must also complete a Social Security form (SSA-1945).

Please be aware that:

  1. OPERS allows you no more than 30 days from your start date to submit either a personal history record or an exemption form. Because you will receive your first pay prior to the end of the 30 days, you will automatically default to “contributing to OPERS” for that pay if no form is received.
  2. Exemption can only be utilized during periods of qualified student employment which requires enrollment in a minimum of 4 credit hours for a graduate assistant. You must contribute to retirement if you do not qualify.
  3. Your retirement selection is irrevocable while you are continuously employed and working as an eligible student employee at Kent State University.

If you have any questions related to this process, please contact Academic Personnel at (330) 672-2220 or Payroll, payroll@kent.edu or 330-672-8640.

Retirement Options Step-by-Step Selection Instructions

Please utilize this step-by-step process to determine which retirement paperwork to complete and submit.

  1. Are you currently a member of STRS, State Teachers Retirement System?
    a. No, not a member – go to step 3.
    b. Yes, a member of STRS – go to step 2.
  2. Is your graduate assistantship a teaching appointment?
    a. No – go to step 3.
    b. Yes – go to step 4.
  3. Are you already or do you want to become a member of OPERS, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, and have retirement withheld?
    a. No – go to step 7.
    b. Yes – go to step 8.
  4. Do you want to contribute to your STRS retirement account by having retirement withheld from your teaching wages?
    a. No – go to step 5.
    b. Yes – go to step 6.
  5. Complete and submit an STRS Exemption from Contributions for Student Employees form and the SSA-1945 form. Done.
    Contributions are required for any periods of employment during which you are not attending classes. A new exemption form must be submitted within 30 days of the start of any subsequent teaching service performed while a student in order to return to exemption.
  6. Complete and submit an STRS New Hire Notification for College and University Employers and the SSA-1945 form. Done.
  7. Complete and submit an OPERS Request for Optional Exemption as a Student form and the SSA-1945 form. Done.
    The signature date can be no more than 30 days prior to or 30 days after the start date of your job, and the form must be received by Academic Personnel no later than 30 days after you start.
  8. Complete and submit an OPERS Personal History Record and the SSA-1945 form. Done.

Your retirement selection is irrevocable while you are continuously employed and working as an eligible student employee at Kent State University.

It is recommended that you 1) keep a copy for your personal records of these instructions and all forms submitted and 2) check your first pay stub to ensure that retirement has been withheld if you selected to contribute or NOT withheld if you selected exemption. Please contact payroll IMMEDIATEY if you believe it is not correct: payroll@kent.edu or 330-672-8640.