An Educator Disagrees with ‘The Future of the Profession’

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JULY 2008 - I appreciate Editor-in-Chief Mary-Jo Kranacher’s concerns with accounting education in a changing environment, as stated in “The Future of the Profession” (The CPA Journal, March 2008). I also appreciate the fact that The CPA Journal has recently included relevant articles on today’s Generation Y students, issues related to the 150-hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam, and how accounting practitioners and accounting educators can and should work together to try to resolve what was accurately described as a “disconnect between accounting education and practice.”

CPA Journal readers and accounting practitioners generally may not fully appreciate the implications of the problem you discussed, particularly the reward system typically used in accounting education. Like all employees, most accounting educators will respond to the incentives and disincentives they face. If research is rewarded and valued more than teaching effectiveness, what outcome do you expect?

She criticizes accounting education as taking place in a vacuum, isolated from the accounting profession. She criticizes some accounting educators as being more concerned with their research projects and publication records than with their students. Moreover, she criticizes accounting education as being too academic and unconcerned with professional issues.

Many of my colleagues at Creighton University and across the country are CPAs, CMAs, CIAs, etc. At Creighton, we have a very active Beta Alpha Psi chapter that has achieved superior chapter status for many years. We have an active advisory board for the accounting department that is composed of accounting practitioners and corporate accountants.

To achieve some balance on these issues, CPA Journal readers and accounting practitioners generally should be aware that accounting educators have been severely criticized in influential accounting journals for being much too concerned with professional and vocational issues (such as teaching today’s increasingly complex accounting and income tax rules, or the current passing rates on the CPA exam) and publishing articles in practitioner journals such as The CPA Journal, while being far too little concerned with accounting as an academic discipline. Several recent articles in Issues in Accounting Education [published by the American Accounting Association (AAA)] concluded that accounting is now in a state of decline in the academy—as evidenced by an acute and apparent long-term shortage of qualified accounting professors with a terminal degree [e.g., a PhD], little interest in traditional PhD programs in accounting, fewer accounting resources in many colleges and universities, and continuing disputes over the direction of many undergraduate accounting programs.

As for the issue of compensation, the reality is that the shortage of terminally qualified accounting educators will only increase salaries for accounting educators willing to change jobs, which likely involves giving up tenure in a very tight market. In addition, many older and tenured accounting educators will likely be told by potential new employers that being published in accounting and tax practitioner journals is not worth much because they are not “academic” enough. Few older accounting educators will even consider changing jobs under these conditions.

Kranacher concludes by saying that “Accounting educators need to decide their priorities.” CPA Journal readers and accounting practitioners must understand that college and university and accrediting bodies play a major role here. Accounting educators do not make these types of important strategic decisions alone. It is unclear to me whether accounting educators acting alone would have been able to create the problems you describe in your article.

So which is it: Are accounting educators too little concerned with professional issues or too little concerned with academic issues? The dilemma remains.

Ronald E. Flinn, DBA, CPA/CMA
Associate Professor of Accounting
College of Business Administration
Creighton University
Omaha, Neb.





















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