Accounting should be designated and promoted as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum in North Carolina secondary schools under the field of Technology, according to a presentation by NCACPA to state lawmakers.
NCACPA members Courtney Knoll, Ph.D., CPA; Kelli Knoble, CPA; and Scott Showalter, CPA, spoke at a meeting of the House Select Committee on Advancing Women in STEM on October 12.
NCACPA called on legislators to build on the state’s existing financial literacy initiatives by establishing and expanding course offerings through grade 12 to include high-quality accounting classes and to target resources at students who are underrepresented in the accounting profession. The association further recommended that the state support the AICPA Accounting Program for Building the Profession course in high schools and encourage higher education institutions to accept the course for college credit.
From his perspective as a former partner at KPMG and current director of the Master of Accounting program at NC State University, Showalter outlined the way the accounting has evolved into a technology-driven field.
Today’s accounting students and graduates are expected to utilize technology skills and tools such as robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, data analytics and visualization, blockchain, and more. The overlap between accounting and technology is so pronounced that technological questions will be part of each section of the new CPA Exam format that launches in 2024.
The trio of speakers amplified concerns expressed by NCACPA members about the need to develop and diversify the profession’s talent pipeline.
“Enrollments in accounting programs and the number of accounting graduates nationwide have been declining over several years, even though demand for CPAs is growing,” said Dr. Knoll, Clinical Professor of Accounting and Associate Dean of the Master of Accounting Program at UNC-Chapel Hill.
As a Partner and National Tax Business Line Leader at Grant Thornton, Knoble expressed pipeline concerns from the employer perspective and discussed the need for greater diversity. Although women make up more than half of today’s accounting graduates and a growing percentage of senior positions at firms and companies, there is still tremendous underrepresentation of minorities in the profession.
Showalter highlighted research by the Center for Audit Quality that found roughly two-thirds of students are making decisions about their college major before their junior year of high school, with almost one-third deciding before high school. Students with interest in STEM fields are more set on their major and decide earlier than students with a non-STEM interest.
“Accounting is being left out of important decision-making by students because it has not been considered part of the STEM curriculum,” said Showalter.
The speakers described the efforts by the AICPA, NCACPA, and other organizations to designate accounting as STEM at the federal level. Although two bills have been filed in the 117th Congress, they appear unlikely to pass this session.
“We don’t have to wait for federal action,” said Knoble. “North Carolina can show leadership among other states and with the federal government by designating and promoting accounting as a STEM field under Technology.”
The select committee was established in June 2022 to study issues related to developing future generations of women leaders in STEM. Committee Chair Erin Paré said the committee is also focused on doing more to encourage student interest among communities underrepresented in STEM careers.
Read more about NCACPA’s advocacy on Accounting as a STEM field
If you have questions about this issue or other policy matters, please contact NCACPA Director of Advocacy Robert Broome, CAE.