Accounting associations create commission to study higher education in accounting

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The American Accounting Association (AAA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) have formed the Pathways Commission to study possible future paths of higher education for those seeking entry into the accounting profession.

"Interest in accounting as a career is the highest it’s ever been and underscores the need to make sure the educational infrastructure remains solid and able to meet the profession’s evolving requirements,” said Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO, who served on the Human Capital Subcommittee of the U.S. Treasury Advisory Committee on the Audit Profession.

The importance of public, private, governmental, and not-for-profit accounting information to the functioning of the economy cannot be underestimated, according to the AAA and AICPA. Broadly defined, the accounting profession produces, analyzes, interprets, and prepares reports about financial and operational information, including assurance on a subset of that information. Stakeholders throughout the economy base critical decisions on information provided by the accounting profession.

Bruce Behn, Ergen Professor at the University of Tennessee who is serving as chair of the Pathways Commission, explained that the commission will be innovative on a couple of fronts.

“First, we plan to seek input from the full spectrum of the accounting community in our deliberations,” Behn said. “We will use a ‘supply chain’ approach. Members of the supply chains will include individuals and representatives from organizations that impact the various current accounting education pathways. Our goal is to facilitate an open, transparent discussion to be supported by both technology and public discussions. Second, the commission recognizes the difficulty of sustaining the momentum for change in the dynamic environment of accounting practice and education. The commission’s efforts are structured to continue into the future.”

The Pathways Commission’s mandate stems from a series of forces affecting accounting education. Among them are shortages of qualified teachers with accounting doctorates, the need to revise the accounting curricula regularly in light of fast-paced business changes, university budget constraints that threaten to make the cost of education prohibitive, and the need for training in specialized areas to meet the profession’s demands.

“As an educator and member of both organizations, I’m encouraged that the AICPA and AAA are working together to ensure that the accounting profession remains a robust and essential profession,” said Gary Previts, CPA, professor of accountancy at Case Western Reserve University and chair of the Treasury Committee’s Human Capital Subcommittee.

“We need to ensure that everyone engaged in the practice of accounting, filling a wide range of positions in the public, private, not-for-profit and government sectors of our economy, is prepared to meet the information needs of the public, organizations, lenders and the capital markets, thereby protecting the public interest,” Previts said.

Following are members of the Pathways Commission:

  • Bruce Behn, Pathways Commission Chair, Ergen Professor of business, University of Tennessee
  • William Ezzell, national managing partner – legislative and regulatory relations, Deloitte LLP
  • Leslie Murphy, president and CEO, Murphy Consulting, Inc.
  • Judy Rayburn, chair, department of accounting, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
  • Jerry Strawser, dean and KPMG chair in accounting, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University
  • Melvin Stith, dean, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

The commission will hold its first meeting October 15-17 in Washington, D.C.More information may be found at

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