Graduates of Online Accounting Programs Have Lower CPA Exam Pass Rates

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by sanantone, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I asked the executive staff of Texas' Board of Accountancy why there is a requirement to take 15 credits of accounting face-to-face. The answer was that online students have lower pass rates. I found the research that supports this.
  2. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    While I agree with sanantone's conclusion regarding accounting board pass rates (solely because I think online education is largely bullshit, and do not proclaim that my belief is anything more than anecdotal), the "research that supports this" is meaningless, and the cited text proves nothing.

    The quoted material provided by sanantone is an abstract of an article that appears in one of the many journals published by Taylor & Francis, who have had their share of journal controversies over the years. When we see phrases like, "have much lower average CPA pass rates," or "much lower in the online or distance accounting programs," I call bullshit.

    What does "much lower" mean that justifies the phrase's use, even in an abstract? Ten percent lower? Twenty percent? Fifty percent?

    Perhaps sanantone can provide the actual statistics, if they appear in the journal article. It will cost her only $43 to pull up the article's text. :rolleyes:
    JBjunior likes this.
  3. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I have free access.

    Face to face (n D 37) 44.3% six-year graduation rate
    Online (n D 37) 33.0% six-year graduation rate
  4. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    I was hoping that, as a doctoral student, you would have free access.

    Even so, you have only provided a comparison of graduation rates. Your original post did not address this, but addressed pass rates on the CPA exam.

    So much for comparing apples and oranges (i.e., discussing apples and presenting a picture of oranges).

    So I hope that you're still on "vacation" from your doctoral program. Because if you had done this on a school assignment, you would have received a failing grade.

    Remember, sanantone, I'm on your side. But this one needed a reality check.
  5. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Reread my post. You're either blind, or you can't read. Maybe it's a little of both. What a failed attempt at trying to be a smartass.
  6. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Done, with the relevant text emphasized:

    "Programmatic-level comparisons are made between the certified public accountant (CPA) exam outcomes of two types of accounting programs: online or distance accounting programs and face-to-face or classroom accounting programs. After matching programs from each group on student selectivity at admission, the two types of programs are compared on CPA exam outcomes of graduates. Results show online or distance accounting programs have much lower average CPA pass rates than their matched face-to-face counterparts with equivalent student selection criteria. In addition, average 6-year graduation rates and average propensity to sit for the CPA exam after graduation are much lower in the online or distance accounting programs."
    The excerpt did, indeed, mention the six-year graduation rate. But my interpretation is that the entire text focused on pass rates for the CPA exam.

    So chill out. Besides, it's better to be a smart ass than a dumb ass. (Lighten up, I couldn't resist that one.)

    Now, would you care to fill in the blank and provide the data on CPA pass rates? :D (That's my final word in this thread.)
  7. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    I already provided the CPA pass rates. You can't really be this stupid.
  8. JBjunior

    JBjunior Active Member

    The data looks interesting: "Normal" selective programs > "less selective" traditional programs > "less selective" online programs for CPAs. Was this a comparison of the exact same program/curriculum for both the traditional and online program? I see they matched "selection criteria" of students but possibly not the quality of the program. Is it possible the online program was inferior from the start, not based on delivery method, but based on curriculum?
  9. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    If they didn't control for quality of the program, then their research is a steaming pile of feces. Georgia Tech gives standardized exams to their online and F2F masters students. The online students have typically out performed the F2F students.
    JBjunior likes this.
  10. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    By the way I think Steve and Sanatone need to go have a beer.
    JBjunior and Phdtobe like this.
  11. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    TESU had the highest CPA exam pass rate in New Jersey one year. They are an open admissions school, but I don't think the pass rate had anything to do with the quality of the program. TESU mostly attracts adult learners with years of work experience. I've read research that's found that adult learners do fine in online classes, but students of the traditional college age do worse.

    But, none of this really matters because the Texas Board of Public Accountancy has professors on its board who believe that accounting students don't learn as well online, so they're sticking to those rules. In my opinion, people should be allowed to fail. The ones who pass are just as qualified as anyone else.

    Steve needs a new pair of glasses.
  12. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    The research about adult learners matches my perceptions and anecdotal experiences--and they go back 15 years teaching online and in the classroom, very often teaching the exact same class in the same semester in the same university--with the only difference being the delivery. Latest results from just two weeks ago? 140 total students spread pretty evenly over three classes, two in the classroom, one online, all of them undergrad classes. Two of the classes had a 65% average on the first exam. One class had a 53% average. Guess which one was the online? Adult learners, masters students, or accounting undergrad students (who are typically a cut above other business students on average) do just fine online. All others, it's about a letter grade difference.

    Regarding the Texas State Board. True that. But you know how the game's played. It isn't about facts, isn't about reality--it's about protecting the profession from too many flooding into it. They find whatever reasons they can to limit that, it keep the salaries up so new accountants continue to start at $50K+ a year and partners continue to make $250K to $1M a year. They play the same games in the law--and with the same balderdash rationales.
  13. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    This "may" reflect that CPA exam prep is more effective with a live instructor but I don't believe so (or, at least it is not the primary cause.

    There are certain B&M schools whose students consistently outperform other B&M schools because their programs are more rigorous and / or they are more selective in admissions.

    There are exceptions but I think it is fair to say that online education in the US is not populated by the best universities with respect to rigor or student selection.
  14. Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius Active Member

    It isn't possible to make some kind of correlation between the method of accounting course instruction (online vs traditional) and how well one will do on the CPA exam. The reason for this is simple: The CPA exam is not a straight-forward measurement of accounting knowledge. If it was, it would have a much higher pass rate.

    There's an entire section of the CPA exam, for example, called Regulation that isn't even covered in traditional accounting curricula. It essentially involves memorizing a phone book size tome of regulations and regurgitating it on the exam.

    Why is the CPA exam so hard? The AICPA states that its difficulty is "to protect the public." I say balderdash. RNs who work in ERs and ICUs, for example, literally have people's lives in their hands. If the NCLEX pass rate was as low as the CPA exam pass rate, we would have a national emergency on our hands.

    No, the difficulty of the CPA exam has nothing to do with "protecting the public." Rather, the purpose is to artificially limit the number of new people entering the profession to keep CPA salaries high. In a nutshell, it's about protecting the "old boy's club."
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
    Phdtobe likes this.
  15. Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius Active Member

    The success of those students on the CPA exam has more to do with selectivity in admissions than the rigor of their programs. In other words, those schools are accepting brighter students than other schools. Those are students who would do well on the exam regardless of the school they graduated from.
    Phdtobe likes this.
  16. FTFaculty

    FTFaculty Well-Known Member

    First time pass rate for any given taker to get through all four sections at once, first time all the way through, is 17 to 18%. No kidding.

    BTW, I used to teach Reg for Becker CPA Review, five years of it. It covers taxation (only some of which, mainly personal taxation, is part of the average account curricula) and business law, bankruptcies, negotiable instruments, UCC, etc, most of which is not a part of the accounting curricula at all. So you're right.
  17. GregWatts

    GregWatts Active Member

    Probably true, however an interesting question still remains. Some schools have selective admissions but graduation is reasonably assured if you get in. Others have relatively open admissions but high drop out rates. Regardless, the degrees from the two schools could theoretically have the same level of rigor... it is just the mechanism to weed out weak students which differs.

    However, here we have students with the "same" degree and one mechanism is clearly more effective as preparation for professional exams. Perhaps this indicates that the "on-line" programs are simply not rigorous enough (i.e. if they were, they would have more students drop / fail and the results versus the more elite schools would be comparable).
  18. Marcus Aurelius

    Marcus Aurelius Active Member

    You're trying to make a correlation between the rigor of accounting programs and the CPA pass rate, which, as I've previously mentioned, can't be made. This is because quite a bit of the content on the professional exam isn't even taught in accounting programs.

    It's kind of like studying martial arts for years, and when you are finally ready to test for your black belt, you find there's a section of the test on trimming bonsai trees.

    In theory, a person should be able to graduate from an online program or a traditional program that is not considered rigorous and still be able to pass the CPA exam by studying for a period of time using one of the CPA exam prep courses. But many graduates from even the "best" accounting programs struggle on the exam because it is convoluted with different/extra content than what was in their degree programs.

    The CPA exam in its current form is a scam that is perpetuated by the AICPA to keep the supply of accounting professionals limited. It has absolutely nothing to do with how good of an accountant you are.
  19. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    This idea appeals to the cynical, conspiracy-minded part of my thinking and so I immediately believe it to be true. It also makes me wonder if something similar might be said of attorneys and the ABA/bar exam.
  20. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I know very little of the accounting field, but I've personally known a handful CPAs and 2 accounting university professors who have told me the exact same thing. Not that a few coroborated opinions are enough to establish the matter as fact, but I do find it interesting that these few people are actual, succesful accountants who are saying this and not just disgruntled people who failed to obtain the CPA credential.

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