Optional Retirement Program (ORP)

ORP is a defined contribution plan governed by Internal Revenue Code Section 403(b).


Eligible employees are notified of their ORP eligibility via an email from DocuSign sent by the Benefits and Leave Management Human Resources office. Eligibility is strictly determined by the job you perform and is not based on years of service or salary level. To be eligible to participate in ORP, an employee must: (1) initially be appointed on a full-time, continuous basis for 4 1/2 months or more; and (2) be appointed to a position otherwise eligible to participate in ORP.

Here are a few examples of ORP eligible positions:

  • Faculty members whose duties include teaching and/or research as a principal activity
  • Faculty administrators responsible for teaching and research faculty
  • Full-time Postdoctoral Fellows and Harrington Fellows
  • Professional librarians
  • Chief and senior administrative officials
  • Specialized professional positions (such as physicians, engineers, and attorneys)
  • Athletic coaches and directors


Enrollment in the ORP must be completed within a 90 day enrollment window that begins on the first day of eligibility. The decision to enroll in ORP is a once in a lifetime, irrevocable decision. Employees who fail to complete all of the enrollment steps prior to the end of their 90 day enrollment window will continue participation with TRS for the duration of their career in Texas Public Higher Education. The four steps to completing the ORP enrollment process are as follows:

  1. Choose your financial provider(s) from the authorized provider list.
  2. Open an account directly with the financial provider(s) you select. This can be completed online or through paper enrollment forms per the financial provider guidelines.
  3. Log onto UT Retirement Manager and select your ORP payroll contributions.
  4. Complete and submit an original, signed, and notarized TRS Form 28 (Notice to Elect to Participate in Optional Retirement Program) to the Benefits and Leave Management Human Resources office. TRS Form 28 is included in the DocuSign packet sent to employees shortly after their first day of ORP eligible employment.

Declining Enrollment

If you are eligible and wish to decline enrollment into the ORP, you must still complete and submit the ORP Acknowledgement Form (PDF) prior to your enrollment deadline. This is easily accomplished by signing the electronic DocuSign ORP Acknowledgement Form that is sent to your email notifying you of your eligibility. If you sign the electronic DocuSign Acknowledgement Form and do not complete all of the other enrollment steps, you will remain in the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) for the duration of your career in Texas Public Higher Education.


The employee is vested and gains the employer contribution after one year and one day of ORP participation. Annuity at the time of retirement is based on the performance of investment funds. Federal tax law prohibits 403(b) plans from providing disability benefits. ORP participants that transition to a non-ORP eligible job title without meeting the vesting guidelines, will be placed in the TRS program indefinitely. There will not be an opportunity to return to ORP participation for the duration of any Texas Public Higher Education employment.


ORP contributions are pre-tax and made through payroll deduction. Contribution rates are set by the Texas Legislature and are as follows:

Retirement Program Employee Contributions Employer Contributions
ORP 6.65% 8.5%