State Board Report

July 2017

The recommendations of a joint NASBA/AICPA task force on accreditation of education were presented by NASBA Education Committee Chair Raymond N. Johnson and NASBA Vice President – Strategic Planning & Program Management Ed Barnicott at the 2017 Regional Meetings. In response to State Boards’ concerns about the ways higher education is changing, impacting its delivery and value, the AICPA/NASBA Accreditation Task Force began work in January 2016 with meetings with accounting program and regional accreditors.“Accreditation is very important,” Dr. Johnson stated. “We want colleges to innovate, to use technology, but to do so maintaining a high level of quality – and that is what we are depending on the accreditors to do.”

Dr. Johnson briefly discussed the Task Force’s 11 recommendations and explained they are only the beginning of the process. Representatives of NASBA and the AICPA are currently working on some of the recommendations with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits schools that account for approximately 60 percent of the CPA candidates. NASBA and the AICPA are also seeking to engage with other business accrediting bodies, including the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

The recommendations, as summarized by Dr. Johnson, include:

1. Within each programmatic accrediting body there should be a perpetual scan of accounting education, and education in general, by a standing committee composed of accounting academics, practitioners and regulators.
2. All aspects of the programmatic accreditation process should include involvement of, and a more defined role for, the profession and regulators.
3. The accounting members on the team evaluating the program should have the authority to make the recommendation to grant or extend accounting accreditation.
4. Include explicit recognition of professional experience in evaluating faculty qualifications.
5. Consider developing a risk-based approach to accreditation review timing and content, with a shorter standard review cycle and the potential for longer periods for institutions that demonstrate a history of strong quality controls.
6. Learning outcomes that support student employability and long-term career success should be significant factors in awarding and maintaining accreditation.
7. Ensure that institutions are adhering to well-defined standards for assessing and granting transfer credit.
8. Accreditors need to have policies and procedures in place to enable the public, regulators and the profession to register concerns about problematic institutions and to have adequate follow-up with such institutions.
9. Exercise quality control of teaching modalities by following established standards and best practices.
10. Provide information to assist candidates in selecting an educational institution.
11. Work with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) to ensure transcripts are transparent as to the equivalency of educational experience and modality employed.

While the Task Force heard in engineering approximately 95 percent of licensees come from a program accredited school and in architecture approximately 97 percent come through a program accredited school, only about two-thirds of CPAs come through an accredited business program, Dr. Johnson noted. However, he added, there are good candidates coming through schools without program accreditation and the Boards need to be respectful of them.

Dr. Johnson said the most important of these recommendations for immediate action is the AACSB has said they will add professionals to their review teams — but they will need volunteers. AACSB conducts about 50 reviews of accredited accounting programs per year and one professional will be required for each of those reviews. Probably in the fall an official request for volunteers will be issued, and then in the spring of 2018 the AICPA will provide the training, so that the volunteers can be involved in the 2018-19 review cycle.

One of the NASBA Education Committee’s projects in the coming months is the establishment of a clearinghouse to bring the Boards’ complaints to the accreditors and get a reasonable response, Dr. Johnson reported. “The accrediting bodies do have a process for registering complaints, but we don’t know how robust that is,” he stated.

The AICPA/NASBA Accreditation Task Force’s co-chairs are Joanne Fiore and Carlos Johnson. Its members are Ed Barnicott, Tonya Flesher, Brentni Henderson, Yvonne Hinson, Raymond Johnson, Sharon Lassar and Steve Matzke. Jan Williams has served as the Task Force’s consultant.

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