At the same time that the CPA education
At the same time that the CPA education requirements have been increasing, the composition of the post-secondary student population has experienced a substantial increase in the number and relative proportion of students who delay college or university matriculation. These students tend to exhibit a preference for accelerated courses and programs (Wlodkowski, 2003). A number of accounting programs have responded by instituting accelerated courses of various designs. These programs typically offer calendar-shortened courses aimed at preparing graduates from other disciplines to either meet CPA educational requirements for licensure or provide the accounting foundation required to enter Masters of Accountancy programs. Accelerated accounting courses provide an avenue for CPA licensure and entry into the profession for those already possessing an undergraduate degree but lacking the time or inclination to pursue accounting education within the framework of a traditional undergraduate or graduate program. A web search for “accelerated” or “intensive” accounting programs found the following universities with current or prior intensively-delivered offerings: UCLA, the University of Washington, the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), the University of California Santa Barbara Extension, the University of Miami, the University of Southern California, William and Mary, the University of Utah, and Santa Clara University. The extent and intensity of these programs varies considerably. For example, at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) students complete 13 semester hours in 12 weeks. At the University of Miami, students complete 12 semester hours in six weeks, and at Santa Clara University students complete 45 quarter units (equivalent to 30 semester hours) of accounting in 15 weeks. What these programs all have in common is the delivery of multiple courses in fundamental accounting areas (financial, tax, cost, information systems, and audit) in a short SAG supplier pathway with a high number of daily or weekly contact hours.
Wlodkowski, 2003, Wlodkowski and Kasworm, 2003 present a history of accelerated learning as a response to the preferences of older students and note the substantial offerings of such programs by US colleges and universities. Accelerated or intensive accounting programs can serve the dual purpose of enabling students to rapidly increase their accounting knowledge and earned units. The relative speed at which students can fulfill the educational requirements for licensure with assistance from intensive accounting programs offers an important advantage to students as well as the profession. Students reluctant to pursue a second degree in accounting can find the barriers to enter the profession to be substantially reduced by the time and cost efficiencies characteristic of accelerated programs. Absent a graduate education mandate for licensure, the use of accelerated, non-degree accounting programs can be expected to continue and grow to satisfy the increased student demand. Thus, it is important to explore whether such programs can, with appropriate structure, provide an effective foundation for subsequent entry to the licensed profession. For example, it may be that accounting, which requires critical analyses and the broad mastery of a substantial body of complex technical material, cannot be internalized as effectively in an accelerated program where time for absorption and repeated practice is curtailed.
Research setting This setting affords an excellent opportunity to isolate the impact of variation in the intensity of accounting programs on CPA exam performance. The traditional and accelerated programs require the same upper division accounting courses with the same contact hours, and use the same faculty members for five of the seven courses. The accelerated and traditional courses use the same textbooks, cover the same learning objectives, administer the same or similar exams, use similar classroom pedagogy (predominantly lecture with student group practice in class), and have similar class sizes (typically 20–40 students)., Tenured faculty teach all classes in the accelerated programs and the majority of the traditional upper division courses. For quality control purposes, it is an important tenet of the department that the accelerated and traditional classes maintain the same level of rigor and coverage, even in those instances in which the faculty differ. Thus our setting naturally controls for several factors considered in prior studies of CPA exam results, such as faculty research productivity and program quality. The only significant difference between the programs is in the delivery intensity.