Comparing retirement savings behavior of HBCU and non-HBCU higher education employees

Insights Report

Higher education boasts near universal retirement plan coverage for its 2.5 million full-time employees. But does retirement savings behavior vary across different subsectors of higher education?


Multiple studies have assessed financial well-being and retirement savings behavior in higher education, but few have gauged employee outcomes across types of institution. This paper examines retirement savings and readiness by employees at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) relative to those at non-HBCU peer institutions.

Key Insights

  • Compared to participants at non-HBCU peer institutions, employees at HBCUs contribute significantly fewer dollars to retirement (between 18% to 30% less).
  • HBCU employees are more than twice as likely to have taken a retirement plan loan than peers. While HBCU participants took out smaller loan amounts than their peers, the median loan represented twice as much as a percent of assets.
  • These results are correlated to participants at HBCUs having significantly lower amount of retirement account balances (roughly 30% less) after five years.
  • Among advice seekers, employees at HBCUs were significantly more likely to seek for advice on retirement income than their peers.

HBCU employees, compared to peers, contribute fewer dollars to retirement and have greater leakage. And, over time, tend to fall behind other higher education employees in accumulating retirement assets.


The researchers use 2022 administrative data to compare nearly 450,000 TIAA participants employed at HBCU and non-HBCU institutions in terms of retirement plan participation and savings decisions, investment decisions, non-retirement withdrawals, asset accumulations, and advice utilization.

Median contribution amounts and contribution source by higher education group and sector
Brent J. Davis

TIAA Institute

David P. Richardson

TIAA Institute

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