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Release: Immediate

UI accounting program leads way for new, state-required CPA standards

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- With a new five-year master of accountancy degree, University of Iowa accounting students will have an edge in this increasingly complex and growing field.

The UI department of accounting recently modified its five-year program to include specialized tracks. It is currently the only program in Iowa to have its accounting program accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Beginning Jan. 1, 2001, students must have completed 150 hours of college course work and pass the certified public accountant (CPA) exam in order to be licensed as CPAs in Iowa. One way to accomplish this licensure requirement is to complete a five-year, combined graduate and undergraduate course leading to the master of accountancy (M.Ac.) degree.

Daniel Collins, head of the department of accounting, says the 150-hour requirement is part of a national trend brought on by the increasing complexity of the field.

"The feeling is that to be technically competent in today's business environment, accounting students need the extra year of education," Collins says. "There's been an explosion over the past few decades in the complexity of the standards and reporting regulations that accountants need to know in order to be up-to-date in their field. Accounting has just become much more complicated."

Beginning in 1989, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants began asking state licensing boards to require 150 hours of college credit. Iowa passed the requirement in 1992 to take effect in 2001. A total of 44 states have passed some form of the regulation. South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska currently have the regulation and Missouri will add it next year.

Under the UI program, students will declare their interest in the M.Ac. degree at the end of the junior year and need to complete the regular sequence of courses leading to a bachelor's degree in accounting. For the fifth year of graduate-level work, students specialize in one of four tracks: management information systems, taxation, financial/auditing, or managerial accounting.

Thomas Carroll, assistant professor of accounting, says students who complete the program will have a more thorough understanding of accounting and the expertise to apply their knowledge. "Accountants are no longer just the keeper of records," Carroll says. "They have to be experts in tracking information, locating it, retrieving it, and using it to best represent their clients."

The new program also places a strong emphasis on placing students in internships, one of the keys to getting a full-time job at graduation, Carroll says. Currently 72 UI accounting students have been placed in internships at top employers such as Deere and Co., Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Ernst and Young, and Arthur Andersen. There continues to be a strong demand for new hires in accounting, Collins added.

Carroll said students interested in studying accounting at the UI will still be able to earn the traditional, four-year degree and graduate with a bachelor's degree. There will continue to be plenty of accounting positions in private companies where a CPA license isn't needed. But he says students who want to be CPAs, the standard in the field, will have to take the five-year program.

The UI department of accounting annually enrolls about 120 undergraduates. The department's goal is to have an annual enrollment of about 60 in the M.Ac. program. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the UI graduate accounting program in the top 30 in the country. UI accounting students also do well on the national multi-part CPA exam, ranking second for scores in the country in the accounting and reporting section in the November 1997 exam.