How faculty can cope with declining accounting enrollment

Many professors in the United States and around the world are concerned about declining enrollment in accounting. The number of U.S. students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in accounting declined from 2016 to 2020, according to the AICPA’s 2021 Trends Report. The number of students in accountancy programs in the UK has fallen from 2016 to 2020, according to the Financial Reporting Council, and shortages of accountants have been reported in countries like Malaysia and South Africa.

While some of this decline can likely be attributed to the pandemic and demographic trends that have resulted in lower college student numbers overall, accounting professors may still want to do what they can to attract more of students in the Grandes Ecoles. .

Accounting professors must actively recruit students, said Elizabeth Gordon, CPA, Ph.D. She’s been in academia for more than two decades, and in that time students have changed, said Gordon, department chair. in Accounting from the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Students today are looking for careers that combine passion and purpose, she said. It is important for faculty members to show students that accounting offers both. That’s especially true as new majors grow in popularity and sometimes offer higher starting salaries, Gordon said.

Temple is a large public university where many accounting majors come from community colleges, which have seen enrollment drop during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gordon said. Experts agree that enrollment trends are cyclical. But right now the industry faces a challenge that needs help on multiple fronts, said Mark Dawkins, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D.

Dawkins is a professor of accounting at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and current president of the American Accounting Association. “It’s all on deck,” he said, adding that solving the problem will take a concerted effort from professors, businesses and state corporations.

Trust Chireka, ACMA, CGMA, is a Lecturer in Accountancy at Walter Sisulu University in South Africa. “There has been a worrying decline in the number of students enrolled in accounting programs at tertiary institutions here in South Africa,” he said. Most South African students in university accounting programs began studying accounting in high school, where it can be a difficult subject to understand. “The shortage of qualified accounting teachers in high schools is exacerbating the struggle,” Chireka said.

4 Ways Professors Can Attract Accounting Majors

“We think this is a very complex issue,” said Kathleen Schaum, executive director of academic talent acquisition at KPMG. Schaum, which is based in San Francisco, helps the company recruit about 9,000 recent graduates each year. “We try to attack from a variety of perspectives,” she said.

Schaum, Chireka, Dawkins, and Gordon offered these recommendations for how professors can attract accounting students:

Actively recruit accounting students. Earning a US CPA designation requires an intense list of courses and exams, and many other countries have strict education standards for accountants. This is one of the reasons why universities, companies and associations must reach out to young students and guide them towards the profession.

For example, KPMG has partnered with the University of Houston and the National Association of Black Accountants to host high school students for visits to its local office as part of a week-long program. It’s important to identify potential accounting majors early, Schaum said. His company recently welcomed 150 freshmen and sophomores from underrepresented backgrounds to its new training center in Orlando, Florida. Participants were nominated by their professors, and “most of these students came away thinking, ‘I want to major in accounting,'” she said.

Temple hosted its first residency program this summer for underserved high school students interested in accounting and is preparing to host an accounting career day in October for several hundred Philadelphia high school students in partnership with the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs. Local accounting firms funded the residency program for three years, Gordon said. Professors can seek this kind of support by contacting the companies that recruit their students or by connecting with alumni in the accounting field. Gordon’s department aims to reach new and undecided students by supporting accounting clubs and offering information sessions on topics that apply to accounting students throughout their college careers, she said. declared.

In South Africa, it is equally important to attract students early as they cannot qualify for many university accounting programs unless they complete an advanced mathematics course in secondary school, which many eschew in favor of a math literacy class, Chireka said.

Help students gain real-world accounting experiences. Providing experiential learning can help attract students and inspire them to stick with accounting. Temple students can participate in its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program to earn a credit, helping families file their returns.

Schaum recommends faculty members keep in touch with alumni in the field who may be able to serve as guest speakers or provide internship opportunities for students. Gordon and Dawkins said students want careers that involve problem solving and creativity. Exposing students to real accounting work can broaden their understanding of the industry.

Graduates of four-year US accounting programs have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and mentorship in finance jobs, earn a paycheck, and pursue a Certified Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. AICPA & CIMA launched the apprenticeship program in 2022.

Address what is important to students. Last year, the theme of Temple’s accounting program was “a profession with a purpose.” Another year was “accounting as technology”. It’s important to highlight aspects of the industry that students are passionate about, Gordon said. She noted that accounting is a smart major for students who want to become entrepreneurs, a factor that also attracts South African students to the field, Chireka said. Highlighting this advantage of the major can speak to today’s students.

It can also be useful to develop initiatives with your student population in mind. The majority of accounting students at the University of North Florida work in the school. The university offers a supplemental instruction program that allows Dawkins and his colleagues to hire successful intermediate accounting students as tutors to support future cohorts. They earn money to advance their studies and deepen their connection to accounting.

Work with accounting firms. For college accounting programs to be successful, they must teach students the skills that accountants will need in practice, Dawkins said. The best way to understand what companies are looking for is to nurture relationships with them. Chireka agrees that it would be beneficial for the profession in South Africa to have more businesses and associations on campus.

KPMG offers a variety of tools available to professors, including Career Catalyst for Audit and Tax, which provides a realistic virtual audit experience. The firm also offers programs like CPA Kickstart, which allows new graduates to join the firm earlier and receive financial support while they study for the CPA exam as a cohort. If faculty members are aware of programs like these, they can promote them to students who can compare accounting to other fields.

Megan Hart is a Florida-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien at [email protected]

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