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State Board Report

November 2015

From 2005 until 2014 there was a 250 percent increase in the number of for-profit institutions from which candidates for the Uniform CPA Examination came, James Suh, Director of the NASBA International Evaluation Services reported. Mr. Suh questioned panelists at the Annual Meeting about the new formats of courses, the standards accreditors apply for granting credit to courses and the rigor of the accrediting programs.

There is blurring between the education and experience candidates receive, American Accounting Association President Bruce K. Behn said, but that is not new: Most schools have been awarding credit for internships. Competency-based education has been around for a long time and the Western Governors University has set a model for it. The question is: How do you measure the quality of the experience?

David E. Leasure, Provost of Western Governors University (WGU), said they measure learning by assessment, not on the basis of time spent to complete a course. WGU worked with Brigham Young University to determine what competencies must be obtained in order to be awarded a Master’s of Accounting degree. Objectives were set for each competency and students must achieve those objectives, however long it takes them. Mr. Suh noted the CPA candidates who come from WGU tend to be much older than other candidates and have a 49 percent CPA Examination pass rate.

The AACSB has been in operation for almost 100 years, noted Robert D. Reid, AACSB Executive Vice President and Chief Accreditation Officer, and for the first 80 of those years it was focused only on U.S. schools. It uses peers to do its accreditation of programs, with almost 700 deans from around the world being used to judge schools. AACSB focuses on how schools set learning goals and use the results to make changes in their programs. Dr. Reid said the AACSB has not yet evaluated a school that gives credit completely on the basis of competency-based education, but he believes in the future it will.

Dr. Behn observed that just as there is variation in the quality of CPA firm peer reviews, there is variation in the quality of accreditation reviews. "For me, the AACSB peer review practice is a wonderful way to see what works and what doesn’t help your school. This is a way to force the university to make changes in its accounting program," he commented. It’s valuable when an entity like the AACSB includes in its standards that a school has to address issues or not be accredited.

The panelists discussed how courses are being "flipped," with the nuts and bolts of accounting being learned outside the classroom and teachers coming to the class to add value. The University of North Carolina put its master’s in accounting program on line and found no empirical difference between their students’ performance, Professor Behn said.

Corinthian Colleges were fully accredited until they closed in April in the midst of investigations for fraud. Mr. Suh said a small number of candidates for the CPA Examination have come from those colleges. He asked if the Education Department’s criticism damned all accrediting organizations. Dr. Reid said the AACSB follows up and investigates schools when complaints are received. They pursue schools when they receive information which is not in line with their standards and would not accredit bad actors.

Mr. Suh asked the panelists, "Is competency-based education a fad?" Dr. Reid said CBE has been around for 30 years and he thought it was better for older, less traditional students, but the campus experience is valuable for younger students. Dr. Behn felt educators have to purposely integrate practice, research and education, and he thought CBE would be part of that. There are 38,000,000 people with some college education and no degree, Dr. Leasure noted, and he maintains CBE is a student-paced learning model that can work for those who are independent learners and have faculty support.

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