CPA Review to be canceled due to declining enrollment

By Augustin Zehnder

NIU’s Certified Public Accountant Review will no longer be offered after September due to outside competition and a decline in enrollment.

The program is designed to help people with a degree in accountancy prepare for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, a test that must be passed for a person to be designated as a certified public accountant. NIU’s CPA Review has been part of the College of Business for 41 years and is open to anyone planning to sit for the CPA exam.

Accountancy Department Chair Jim Young said the decision to cut the program was made by the department and not NIU. Declining enrollment has made the CPA Review financially unsustainable, he said.

“The review itself … is a stand­alone entity. It isn’t getting direct funding from the university,” Young said. “Really this is something of an independent agency within the College of Business that needs to balance its budget every year, and if it can’t then we have to make some hard choices because we can’t run deficits.”

The decision to cut the program “isn’t something that happened overnight,” Young said, as it’s come about after a process of observing declining enrollment within the context of external market forces.

The trend in accounting firms is to contract with private companies to provide CPA review courses for their employees, Young said. Such companies offer accounting firms an opportunity to save money in that, unlike NIU, they can offer review courses anywhere in the United States.

Taking a CPA review course with a private company rather than with NIU offers people a significant financial advantage, as well, Young said. Many CPA firms contracting with a private test­ prep provider will pay the cost of the review course for their employees, whereas someone taking CPA Review at NIU has to pay the entire cost out of pocket, Young said.

“And you know, that’s a significant cost,” Young said. “Our review is in the area of $2,000 for the entire review, so that’s, you know, that’s happening.”

Because of such market factors, the trend of declining enrollment in NIU’s CPA Review is unlikely to reverse and make the program financially sustainable, Young said.

“Finally what it’s come to, is that over the last couple of years there’s been a deficit, and there’s a trend in the registrations that we just don’t see changing. And so we’ve made a difficult to decision to shut it down,” Young said.

Graduate accounting student Kostantinos Tanglis said most accountancy majors he knows plan to take a CPA review course with a private company rather than NIU because of the cost.

“Since a lot of accounting majors get jobs, they’re usually just going to go with whatever one their company totally covers, so they don’t have to spend anything,” Tanglis said.

But, he said the choice doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of NIU’s program, which he said is excellent.

“I don’t think people are choosing the other [programs] because NIU’s isn’t good,” Tanglis said. “I think it’s like a money decision. If you have a full scholarship to one school, how good would the other school have to be for you to pay to go there?”

Young said the NIU’s CPA program is exceptional in terms of content and presentation and he is disappointed to see it go. Nevertheless, he said, cutting it is a necessary concession as he sees no way of keeping the program within budget under current enrollment conditions.

“We’ve tried various things to balance the budget, but it’s become very evident that external market forces are what’s driving this, and that, unfortunately, we can’t compete with,” Young said.