NIU turns out most CPA exam passers

By Robyn Richard

For the fifth consecutive year, NIU is No. 1 in the percentage of students nationally who passed the Certified Public Accountant exam, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

NIU CPA Review Director John Simon said 93 of the 144 NIU students who took the exam in May 1986 passed all four parts.

Linda Sergent, committee on accounting secretary at the University of Illinois-Champaign, said 72,000 students nationwide took the CPA exam in May. Out of this total 3,579 of these students were from Illinois and 34 percent of that number passed the exam, she said.

The national average pass rate for the CPA exam is 19.5 percent; however, NIU’s pass rate in May was 60.4 percent. Simon said this means NIU is the only school in the nation with a 60 percent pass rate.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which ranked second with 32 students taking the exam, had a pass rate of 59.4 percent, Larry Ozzello, U of W accounting department chairman, said. “We scored well this year, but NIU is still number one.”

U of I, which has one of the largest accounting programs in the country, ranked third in the nation, according to NASBA. The university had a 54.7 percent pass rate for the 298 students who took the exam.

To be considered a “big school,” a college must have at least 20 students taking the CPA exam, Ozzello said. In past years the number was higher, but due to the difficult nature of the exam it has been lowered, he said.

NIU Accountancy Professor Dick Baker said, “It’s not only the high national scores of the students here at NIU that impress me, but the fact that 80-85 percent of the class takes the exam and, as a group, we still have the best scores.”

Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago, about 1,000 new CPA’s from Illinois will receive their certificates, Simon said. This is a very important night for these students as well as the university, he said. “We’ve worked them vigorously, and now it’s their chance to be proud.”

College of Business Dean Richard Brown, along with several other business school faculty members, will be at the Hyatt to distribute the certificates.

Elijah Watts Sells Awards also will be awarded to students that night. “These awards are given to a very exclusive group of students who have been nationally recognized for their high performance on the CPA exam,” Simon said.

Of the 110 and 120 students who are selected nationally for this award, eight are NIU students, he said. In the past, as many as 11 NIU students have won the award, Simon said.

“The recruiters of NIU accounting students think they are fantastic,” he said. “We (NIU accounting department) have reached our potential; now we need to stay where we are.”