Burlington College neglected to make contributions to the retirement funds of staff members this summer.
In an email sent to employees Monday, President Christine Plunkett called it an “inadvertent oversight as our staff balanced many responsibilities over the summer” that was "neither a planned nor intentional step," and she assured her staff that their accounts were being swiftly replenished.
The college failed to deposit both the employee contributions — which come directly from their paychecks — and the employer match.
"This is, of course, a grave concern," Plunkett's email continues, "as the contributions include your own employee funds as well as College contributions. I am well aware of the legal obligations to remit those funds in a timely manner."
Joellen Leavelle, outreach manager for the Pension Rights Center in Washington, D.C., said employers are legally obligated to deposit employee contributions within seven days, but failing to meet that requirement is a common problem. “We’re glad the college realized the mistake and worked as fast as it could to correct the problem, and we hoped it learned from its mistake and will not do it in the future,” Leavelle said.
It's been a rough summer for the small liberal arts college. In late June, the regional accreditation group NEASC put it on probation because of its shaky finances. NEASC was concerned, among other things, that the school was struggling just to meet summer payroll. Several key staff members have resigned in recent weeks, including the academic dean, an admissions counselor and a financial aid officer.
Plunkett said she was alerted to the problem with the retirement funds last week. The college staff also found out last week, when they received letters from TIAA-CREF, which holds the retirement funds.
According to the president's email, the college restored the missed employee contributions last Friday and was working Monday morning to catch up on the employer contributions. Plunkett also assured staff that once the college determines how much interest would have accrued that will be deposited, too.
The administration did not immediately return calls for comment.