Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Accounting Bill May Lead to Problems for Colleges

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Accounting Bill May Lead to Problems for Colleges

Article excerpt

By Nancy Raiden Titus

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A controversial accounting bill which would require a fifth year of college education for candidates sitting for the certified public accountant exam could end up pitting large colleges against smaller ones in the quest for enrollment.

House Bill 1155, which on Monday was laid over for future consideration by the full House, would require those taking the CPA exam to have 150 hours. It specifies that students must earn 12 hours in accounting and nine hours in business-related courses after receiving a bachelor's degree.

Dr. Rex Mahlman, chairman of the business department at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, said he supports the general idea of requiring 150 hours but opposes House Bill 1155 because it is too proscriptive.

"I am not opposed to the concept of the 150 hours if it is flexible enough to allow us to package programs. We will still have the four-year baccalaureate program for kids in accounting. Not everybody will sit for the CPA exam."

Mahlman said the extra education requirement will not prevent people from entering the accounting profession, though it will put up another hurdle for those wanting to get into the elite ranks, which the CPA exam signifies.

The CPA designation allows a holder to perform public accounting, including the attest, or audit, function. Many who do not work in public accounting _ those in industry or government _ still seek the designation because of its prestige and the higher earning potential it affords.

Darryl Hill, executive director of the Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants, which is pushing for the bill, said it is backed by both small and large firms.

The trade organization, which has about 5,600 members, supports the measure because it would give the public better educated CPAs.

"With technology that is exploding, four years doesn't do the trick, especially with the ton of standards that are promulgated every year. People with a master's degree, what the firms have found is that they don't have to retrain them. Even the small firms are for this. When they hire, they want to get them billable right away," he said.

Mahlman said Northwestern has a fine accounting program, which is proved by the fact that four of its 1993 graduates passed the CPA exam on the first try.

"I am very much opposed _ with us not having a graduate program in business _ to being pushed into an area that is not our mission."

He also opposes the provision that would require students to earn 21 hours after earning the bachelor's degree.

"If they can still be undergraduate hours, why would the timing make any difference?"

A lack of specifics on the number of accounting and business hours after the bachelor's degree was one of the sticking points which caused the bill to be defeated in the committee the first time around, according to the bill's author, Rep. Loyd Benson, D-Frederick. It was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last week.

If the bill passes, one option for students would be to receive their bachelor's in accounting at an institution like Northwestern and then transfer to one of the larger comprehensive universities. Another option would be to allow the smaller colleges to begin graduate programs, though that is not particularly palatable in an environment of funding problems for higher education.

"I think we should keep the distinction between the four-year and the comprehensive institutions," said Shane Moriarity, associate dean of the University of Oklahoma's College of Business Administration and former director of its School of Accounting.

OU would be able to implement a 150-hour program readily since it has offered a BACC-MACC combination for more than 10 years. …

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