Dude, wheres my teacher? Who will teach the next generation of CPAs?

Author:Ascierto, Jerry
Position::Certified Public Accountants - Cover Story
 
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Just like slide rules and inkwells, accounting educators are becoming a vanishing breed. While enrollment in undergraduate accounting programs has risen in recent years--and increasing numbers of candidates are sitting for the CPA Exam--the number of accounting doctorates awarded annually are at their lowest level in decades.

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Only 86 accounting doctorates were awarded nationally in 2002, according to the Hasselback Accounting Faculty Directory. That's a steep decline from 199 degrees awarded on average between 1992-94.

The demand for educators looks to only increase in the coming years as a generation of baby boomer professors retires.

This situation has reached what many in accounting academia believe to be crisis proportions. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business expects that by 2007, the shortage of business doctorates--including accounting--in the United States will be 1,142; by 2012, that shortage is expected to more than double to 2,419.

As business schools nationwide scale back doctoral programs, "the demand for accounting educators is going to get severe very quickly," says CPA Janice Carr, professor of accounting at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and co-chair of CalCPA's Accounting Education Committee.

The problem is exacerbated by California's high cost of living and vanishing state budget, which make recruiting accounting educators more challenging for the state's schools.

And as the profession slowly begins to redouble its efforts to attract students to academia, many educators in California's schools are left to wonder: Who will teach tomorrow's CPAs?

SOUNDING THE ALARM

Carr has been sounding this alarm for several years at the state and national level, through her work on CalCPA's Accounting Education Committee and on AICPA Council.

Undergraduate enrollment has steadied since its decline in the late 1990s, with the AICPA pouring significant resources in attracting the best and brightest into the profession, "and that's well and good," says Carr. "But if there's nobody there to teach them, we have a problem. As a profession, we've dropped the ball in terms of recognizing the need."

When outlining career opportunities to accounting students, "we talk about becoming an industry accountant, a government accountant or a public accountant. But we haven't marketed academia as an opportunity over the years," Carr says. "We've overlooked it, and it's going to come back to haunt us."

The profession is finally beginning to listen. The AICPA will soon partner with the American Accounting Association, an organization of accounting educators, and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to address the problem, says Beatrice Sanders, director of the AICPA's Academic and Career Development division.

And CalCPA is re-instating its doctoral grant program, which was discontinued in the mid-1980s when demand for new accounting educators seemed low. A proposal is being finalized that would award up to three doctoral...

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