EMU accounting students rank second in the state behind the University of Virginia for first-time pass rate on all sections of the Certified Public Accountant Exam. Professor Ronald L. Stoltzfus (center) said these results may reflect "the advantage of the one-on-one attention that our students get." With Stoltzfus are other faculty members in the business and economics department who teach accounting: Marilla Melcher (left) and Leah Kratz. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Accounting Majors Excel by National Standards

Eastern Mennonite University’s accounting students rank No. 2 in the state, behind the University of Virginia, for first-time pass rate on all sections of the Certified Public Accountant Exam, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

EMU’s candidates passed the sections at a 72.2 percent rate, according to the 2011 NASBA Data and Trends Report, issued in 2012. The University of Virginia (UVa) had an 84.7 percent pass rate in the category of candidates without an advanced degree.

Close behind EMU were the students of James Madison University, with a 70.2 percent pass rate, and the University of Richmond with a 68.8 percent pass rate. Nationally, first-time candidates pass the sections at 49.8 percent. The average pass rate for all bachelor-degree-holding students in Virginia was 53.9 percent.

NASBA also reported that EMU ranks 18th in the nation in the “Very Small” category. This category includes 239 institutions with five to nine candidates taking the exam.

The accounting program at EMU is headed by Ronald L. Stoltzfus, who holds a PhD in accounting and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He has overseen the program since 1984. Other faculty members teaching accounting are Leah Kratz, an EMU grad who holds a CPA and MBA, and Marilla Melcher, with a CPA and an MS in accounting.

One-on-one attention

“The five graduates from EMU who took this exam in 2011 were a small group of test-takers compared to the test-groups of accounting graduates from much-larger universities in the state, such as Virginia Tech, James Madison, and William & Mary,” noted Stoltzfus. “But I don’t think our small size diminishes our achievement. In fact, it may point to the advantages of the one-on-one attention that our students get.”

In a mark of accomplishment in 2012, a four-student EMU team competed against accounting teams from university programs around the United States in a contest sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). EMU made it into the final round of 20, from which three winners were chosen. AICPA judges ranked the EMU team, along with the other finalists, on its ability to present solutions in 1,000 words or less to the difficulties this nation faces with Social Security, the national deficit and taxes.

Vying with UVa

In the fall of 2010, EMU accounting majors also proved themselves in a regional competition. The EMU team tied for fourth place in the final round of competition with a team from UVa in the ninth annual Goodman & Company Accounting Challenge.

The team – consisting of Brittany S. Snyder, Raphine, Va.; Heidi A. Boese, Hesston, Kan.; Eric B. Yoder, Narvon, Pa.; and Jason D. Ropp, Iowa City, Iowa – was one of 33 teams from colleges and universities from Virginia and Maryland. To advance to the final round, the EMU team completed two sets of grueling six-hour business exams.

Another team from UVa finished first in the contest, followed by teams from William & Mary and James Madison.

Pipeline to JMU grad program

To become licensed as a CPA, state licensing bodies typically require 150 hours of coursework. EMU graduates aiming for a CPA typically gain this coursework by enrolling in a master’s program. Over the last 10 years, their favorite next step has been James Madison University’s highly ranked MS program in accounting, but some students have enrolled in similar programs at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University-South Bend, among others.