Banking & Finance and Higher Education

Calvin College adds master of accounting degree

School sees new program as opportunity to ‘go deeper,’ meet talent need in the industry.

February 3, 2017
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Responding to increased demand for skilled analysts, auditors and finance experts, Calvin College has added a master of accounting (MAcc) program.

The new degree is Calvin’s third graduate-level offering, joining a master of speech pathology and audiology and a master of education program.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, the accounting profession is projected to grow 13 percent from 2012-22.

And, according to a feasibility study conducted on behalf of Calvin by national consultant Sandra Richtermeyer, dean of the Manning School of Business at University of Massachusetts Lowell, there is plenty of local, national and international demand for the program.

Marilyn Stansbury, director of the new MAcc, said the school has been keeping tabs on the industry, and this is the next logical step.

“The accounting profession continues to evolve, and more emphasis is being placed on analytics and big data,” she said. “The auditing standards are continually changing, and this is a way to keep up with those changes and respond to the changes in the market.

“We have regular communications with those in … public accounting, and they are saying there is high demand, so we expect to be able to tap into that with our master’s program.”

Beginning in fall 2017, the MAcc program will allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting in five years.

The current 150-credit-hour, five-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science in public accountancy (BSPA) degree is being replaced with minor revisions to Calvin’s existing four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science in accountancy (BSA) degree and the new nine-month master of accounting degree.

The revisions will result in a minimal increase in the total number of credit hours previously required in the BSPA — essentially allowing students to earn their master’s degree in the same time frame needed to complete the former Bachelor of Science in public accountancy degree.

In order to help students develop their communication, presentation, research and technical skills, the new 31-credit master’s degree requires the college to revise three courses presently in the public accountancy major and add seven new graduate-level courses. These courses are part of an effort to respond to changes coming to the industry and to increased testing of high-level skills — such as application, analysis and evaluation — beginning with the 2017 CPA Exam.

In the past five years, about 68 percent of Calvin graduates passed the CPA Exam on their first attempt, which is 18 percent higher than the national average. The pass rate put Calvin in the top 25 nationally among medium-sized CPA programs for four of the past five years.

“We are already doing things quite well in preparing students to sit for that exam,” said Cheryl Brandsen, provost of Calvin College. “But the CPA exam is also shifting in terms of content areas. So, to continue to prepare students well, this is a good way to do that.”

Added Stansbury: “We see the MAcc as an opportunity for them to go deeper to be even more prepared for the future.”

Stansbury said the program, which is designed to accommodate up to 28 students, will prepare students for jobs in industry, public accounting, government and the nonprofit sector, and will be open to anyone who meets the prerequisites.

“Because the program is designed to deepen our students’ understanding of accounting concepts, an understanding of accounting roughly equivalent to an accounting major is presumed,” she said. “We look forward to recruiting students who have just completed their accounting degree, as well as students who have some work experience.”

She said the courses will teach students how to apply analytics to accounting situations and how to communicate effectively, with an emphasis on preparing and presenting audit, tax and other accounting information. The courses also will offer preparation in accounting ethics and corporate financial research, analysis and valuation.

Stansbury said the college plans to hire one additional full-time accounting faculty member for the MAcc. She said the faculty members teaching in the master’s program also will teach in the undergraduate program.

“Our faculty includes those with CPAs, CGMAs, MBAs and Ph.D.s in accounting, finance and other relevant fields,” she said.

Brandsen and Stansbury stressed along with excellence in accounting, the program’s top priority will be graduating students who live out Calvin’s mission to be “agents of renewal in the world.”

“This move (to create the MAcc) is in line with the college’s strategic plan,” Brandsen said. “That plan speaks to the college’s intentions to create and implement new programs that are consistent with the college’s mission and that prepare our students to be effective participants and leaders in the places where they live and work. This new MAcc program is exactly the kind of program imagined in the strategic plan.”

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