University Registrar Jill Carlton will retire in January after 27 years at Yale.

She said she is leaving between six and 12 months earlier than she planned in order to take advantage of the University’s voluntary layoff benefit. Administrators said Carlton has made enormous contributions to the University.

“She brings a deep understanding of the expectations and needs of both instructors and students about the support that they need from a registrar’s office,” said Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon GRD ‘78.

A campus search committee and a search firm hired by the University will seek a replacement for Carlton, said Ernst Huff, associate vice president for student financial and administrative services. He added that an interim registrar would be announced next week.

Carlton made many of her most significant contributions to the University before she became registrar, colleagues said. As director of Student Information Technology Services, a position she retained when she became registrar in 2003, she helped develop of many of the information systems that students and faculty use today, such as Online Course Inquiry, Online Course Selection and the course evaluation system.

Carlton said leading two offices was challenging, but Huff said she integrated her two roles successfully.

“This provided not only efficiency but also a greater level of service to students and faculty,” he said.

One of her largest tasks as registrar was to oversee the 2010 Census, which she said was different from other projects because it required the participation of the entire student body and many administrators.

Carlton said she is leaving now to take advantage of the voluntary layoff benefit, which includes two weeks of separation pay for each completed year of service, a lump sum payment for unused vacation days and health benefits for managerial and professional staff who have worked at Yale for at least 27 years.

“Rather than lay people off in budgetary down year, the university is incentivizing people to leave with a retirement option that is quite favorable,” she said. “The idea is make room in the university for some reorganization of staff that would potentially be more efficient through shared services.”

Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth said the program is designed to reduce the number of people who have to be fired during these tight economic times and to rid offices of excess staff, adding that the registrar would not fall into this category because Carlton’s position will have to be filled.

She acknowledged this program has the downside of encouraging talented staff such as Carlton to leave early. She said there is a separate but similar program for faculty members that allows professors to phase out their teaching and academic work over the course of three years.

“You lose a lot of great people that way,” she said, “people who are institutional memory of Yale.”

Carlton did not take a conventional path to a career in developing information systems, teaching Italian and French at Wesleyan University for nine years before arriving at Yale in 1984 to take a position as a Senior Programmer Analyst. She said she was looking for a change, and computers had become especially intriguing to her.

Though she had little technical experience with programming, she wrote a computerized record-keeping system for the graduate school, which it used until 1998.

“That’s one of the things I’m proudest of because I can’t believe I did it,” she said.

She went on to oversee the development of similar systems for Yale College, the Law School and several professional schools, and she later managed the implementation of the Banner Student System, which supports most administrative functions associated with admissions, financial aid, registration, grading and billing.

Carlton majored in Italian at Cornell University, and she earned her doctorate in Romance languages and literatures from Johns Hopkins University. She hopes to spend more time travelling and reading after her retirement, she said.