In 2000, the AICPA commissioned the Taylor Research & Consulting Group to identify factors that had a negative impact on the profession’s ability to attract quality students. The Report indicated the AICPA faced the challenges of student perceptions and systemic barriers in changing these negative perceptions. The challenges of student perception include ignorance, misinformation, and negative perceptions:
1. Student Ignorance: Most students are ignorant or have limited knowledge of an accounting career.
2. Misinformation: Much of students’ information regarding accounting is limited or faulty. For example, some students see accounting as limiting (rather than expanding) their future career choices and associate accounting with bookkeeping and therefore do not view accounting as a course or a career for “good students.”
3. Negative Perception: Students view accountants performing boring, tedious, and monotonous number-crunching by themselves. The data in the Taylor Report suggests that students are not choosing accounting as a career because their interests (and values) lie elsewhere.
The Taylor Report identified systemic barriers the profession faces in addressing these issues.
According to the Taylor Report, the research suggests that since many of the accounting courses currently offered by high schools are remedial in nature, they do not create the type of interest necessary to increase the number—and quality—of accounting majors. For instance, one student, when asked why s/he did not take accounting in high school, stated, “There weren’t any AP classes in accounting. Those (accounting) courses (offered) were for secretaries.” To compound this problem in Kansas (and other states) student who take an accounting class and get an A will actually have their overall grade point decline because accounting classes are negatively weighted due to their vocational classification. In addition, accounting classes are not considered college prep courses and do not count toward college admission.
To remove this systemic barrier, the Accounting Department at Kansas State University has created The AP Accounting Project whose goal is to get the College Board to adopt accounting as part of their Advanced Placement (AP) Curriculum. During the first year of The Project a curriculum was developed and three high schools in Kansas taught the course in the 2007-2008 school year. For the 2008-2009 school year The Project conducted a 3 day workshop in June 2008 to train 20 new pilot teachers at Kansas State. The goal of the workshop was to ensure that the pilot faculty understood the content of the course and how the material was to be delivered and assessed. Accounting teachers from 7 states and were trained to teach the new course and 11 high schools in 6 states (Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, and Minnesota) taught the new course in the 2008-2009 school year.
Kansas State’s Accounting Department developed the following articulation agreement for high schools whose students successfully complete the new college level accounting course and a qualifying exam administered at the end of the course: (1) Students who receives a 90 or better on the Qualifying Exam and enroll at Kansas State will be given an A and credit for KSU’s first accounting course (Accounting for Business Operations) and can enroll in the second introductory accounting course (Accounting for Investing and Financing) as a first semester freshman. (2) Upon completing Accounting for Investing and Financing students can begin taking accounting courses that lead to an undergraduate accounting degree. (Students who receive a score from 85 to 89 on the Qualifying Exam will receive a B and credit for the first introductory accounting course and have the enrollment options described above.) Students in the program will have a significant head start in KSU’s accounting program and can spread their accounting courses over their entire undergraduate experience rather than packing their upper level courses in the last two years. This allows these high quality student to have a broader educational experience throughout their undergraduate experience.
The AP Accounting Project has contacted all state funded colleges and un universities and is in the process of contacting private colleges and community colleges in Kansas soliciting their participation in this program. It is the hope of The Project that schools who participate in this program model their articulation agreements after KSU’s. Many schools are concerned that these students will not be able to hand the rigor of college level accounting. However, this concern seems unfounded based on Kansas State’s experience.
In May 2008 ten high school students who participated in the first year of The AP Project took qualifying examinations and six of these students passed the exam and qualified to receive a grade of A. All six of these students attended Kansas State University and four enrolled in the second introductory accounting course (Accounting for Investing and Financing) in the fall of 2008. Student from the first year are now sophomore and are taking the second semester junior level accounting course (Accounting Theory and History). In May 2009 six more students passed the qualifying exam (five from Kansas and one – a junior – from Chicago). Four are enrolled at Kansas State for the 2009-2010 school year.
The AP Accounting Project has received a good deal of national attention. Articles about “The AP Accounting Project” have appeared in the National Business Education Association’s (NBEA) “Business Education Forum”, the American Accounting Association’s Newsletter, and the “Journal of Accountancy”. It was also included in testimony at a Congressional hearing on the future of the accounting profession. Presentations have been made at the NBEA and AAA national meetings in 2008 and 2009. Presentations are scheduled for the NBEA national meeting in San Diego in the spring of 2010 and at the national meeting of the AAA in August 2010.
As a result of the dissemination of information about The AP Accounting Project, there has been a substantial increase in the number of teachers nationwide who want to participate in the project. In the summer of 2009 over 100 new teachers were trained. Training workshops were held on the Kansas State campus, in Richmond, Virginia at the Virginia Society of CPAs’ training center, and at the Wisconsin Institute of CPAs’ training center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition, another 200 hundred high school teachers in 26 states have registered with The AP Project and have indicated their interest becoming part of program in the 2010-11 school year.
If accounting is adopted by the College Board the advantages for the accounting profession are numerous. First and foremost students would get a better education. An AP Accounting class would build a very visible bridge between high schools business programs and the business programs of colleges and universities where none exists today. Such a connection means very bright students who would have never considered taking accounting could take accounting classes without being penalized and without the negative vocational stigma of the traditional course. (It is interesting to note that research shows that students who take AP classes in high school will take a similar course when they attend college.) Parents of bright students would encourage their students to take such a course because it would be useful for the students and reduce future college tuition. Such a course would improve the financial literacy of high school students. It would save millions of dollars currently spent to attracting quality students. Using an existing infrastructure an AP Accounting Course would accurately portray the rigor of college level accounting and reveal the numerous and varied opportunities available to an accounting professional. In short, it would eliminate the systemic barrier identified by the Taylor report.
The AP Project does not advocate the elimination of existing high school accounting courses. These courses were designed to prepare students to become bookkeepers and clerks upon graduation from high school. The vocational focus is appropriate for students who want to pursue this type of career. Unfortunately, the current course does not effectively serve students who want to purse an accounting major any more than general math serves to prepare student who want to become engineers.
The AP Accounting project continues to make significant progress in Kansas and nationally thanks to the efforts of the volunteers from the Kansas State University accounting faculty, high school teachers Glenda Eichman from Manhattan, Sueanne Hill from Hoxie, and Joe Navickas from Deerfield, Illinois, and Joe Bittner from the University of Connecticut. However, as the number of schools in the program increases nationally, the need for a full time person to administer The Project becomes critical. Despite contributions from the AICPA, the NBEA, the IMA, the Kansas and other CPA Societies, CPA firms and corporations, The Project is at a crossroads. Funding The AP Accounting Project will become a priority this year as the number of high schools participating in the program for the 2010-11 school year could reach 150 nationally. CPAs and other accounting professionals in Kansas can help by making a contribution to The AP Project and also encouraging their local high schools and the colleges and universities they support to become involved.
The AP Accounting Project at Kansas State has the potential to make a significant, positive impact on the accounting profession in the United States. The health of the profession depends on the quality of its professionals. An AP Accounting course would introduce the accounting profession to high quality students who otherwise would not consider the course in high school as a result of the systemic barrier currently in place. A college prep accounting course would build bridges between high school accounting educators and college and university accounting programs. Such a course would also increase the opportunity for practicing accounting professionals to become involved in the process. In the long-run, using the existing high school infrastructure is the most cost effective way to address the negative perceptions of accounting and to attract high quality students to the profession.