March 2016 Issue
March 30, 2016

TRS: Former grad or teaching assistant

Source: NYSUT United

New York State TRS teamGet your prior service credit

Q: During the late 1980s, I worked as a graduate assistant while earning my master's degree at the State University of New York.

Can I purchase prior service credit for that time?

A: Yes, you can. Due to a recent position change by the New York State Teachers' Retirement System, members who were graduate or teaching assistants at SUNY colleges and universities between 1982 and 1991 are now eligible to purchase prior service credit for that time. The only stipulation — you must have been on SUNY payroll while employed. The change applies to both active and retired members.

As always, it's a good idea to contact NYSTRS at 800-348-7298, ext. 6250, or use the MyNYSTRS secure messaging feature, to discuss your situation before purchasing.

For information about claiming and purchasing prior service, read the publication You Deserve the Credit. You'll find it at under publications.

Q: I read that a state constitutional convention vote takes place in 2017. What does this mean, and how could it impact me?

A: A constitutional convention vote could impact you, and every other New York State resident, a great deal. The New York State Constitution mandates that every 20 years voters decide whether to hold a statewide constitutional convention — basically a forum to tweak, change or radically make over the state constitution.

Since the state constitution safeguards the fundamental rights you enjoy as a New York State citizen, including guaranteed pension benefits, the right to unionize and free public education, fiddling around with it is akin to opening Pandora's box. NYSUT is encouraging members to mobilize in 2017 to help voters understand what's on the line if a constitutional convention takes place. Voters rejected a constitutional convention in 1997 after concerned activists worked together to educate voters about the risks of opening the state constitution.

Did you know

The New York State Teachers' Retirement System has thousands in unclaimed funds and abandoned accounts. To see if you're owed a refund, visit