Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Effect and Implications of Progression Policies on Accounting Student Retention and Advancement

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Effect and Implications of Progression Policies on Accounting Student Retention and Advancement

Article excerpt


Due to progression and retention concerns, accounting faculty at a mid-size, four-year, regional, state university, considered whether the minimum grade necessary to advance from Intermediate Financial Accounting I (the first of a three course sequence) should be raised from a C to a B. The faculty questioned whether students that could barely progress from Intermediate Financial Accounting I, a course notably less rigorous than the two remaining intermediate classes and other upper-level accounting classes, would have a reasonable chance of successfully completing the rest of the program.

A requirement for a student to earn a minimum grade to advance to the next course in a sequence is a progression policy intended to ensure that a student has the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the subsequent class. The requirement also helps set an expectation of acceptable performance.

Accounting is a challenging maj or and profession. The work does not go away until someone does it. People that either can't or won't do the work required would probably be better served by changing majors or doing something else. Most accounting programs have a course that tends to encourage some students to change majors. A concern is where in the curriculum the course should be. Too soon results in the unnecessary loss of majors and too late delays the student from finding a major that better suits their interests and abilities.

This paper examines the subsequent performance of students that earned a C in Intermediate Financial Accounting I (C students) compared to those that earned an A or B (A/B students) and discusses the progression and retention policy implications of the findings.

There are no separate admission requirements for either the College of Business or the accounting program at the university studied. The Accounting Department has no say in who is allowed to enter the university or the accounting program. As such, this study does not address admissions policies such as required minimum scores on standardized entrance exams (ACT, SAT), high school GPA, gender or race. Some of this information is provided solely to help readers consider whether the results may be generalizable to their institutions.

Further, this study does not address issues that may affect student academic performance such as commuting time, hours worked at outside jobs, financial need, family responsibilities, marital status, level of interaction with faculty, or whether the student is a transfer student. The Accounting Department has no ability to set or regulate behavioural standards outside the classroom. Grades are not adjusted because a student faced challenges. Whether in school or at work, everyone has challenges of one type or another and eventually it is up to the individual to do, or not do, what needs to be done to be successful.


Similar to other academic programs, accounting programs are subject to retention and graduation pressures. However, if accounting students are allowed to graduate without having demonstrated a reasonable level of competency it may reflect poorly on both the students and academic institution. Unprepared students may have problems both getting and keeping an accounting position. Firms may stop hiring at institutions that produce too many accounting students that prove unable to do the job. Thus, it is in the best interest of all concerned for accounting programs to maintain academic standards, identify as early as possible students that are unlikely to successfully complete an accounting degree, and advise those students to choose a more viable option based on their interests and abilities.

There is little recent published research directly related to grade related accounting program progression requirements. There are studies investigating factors that may predict or improve the likelihood of success in Intermediate Financial Accounting I, who should be admitted into accounting programs, and more general studies related to college persistence. …

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