AICPA, NASBA publish revised CPA Evolution Model Curriculum

By Jan Taylor, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., and Daniel J. Dustin, CPA

The AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) published a revised CPA Evolution Model Curriculum on Friday in response to feedback from users of the resource and other interested parties.

Members of the profession told the AICPA and NASBA that the curriculum resource could be enhanced through a deeper dive in certain areas. We also received suggestions on how to improve the clarity of certain topics and learning objectives.

The result of all this valuable feedback is today's update, which refreshes the resource that was published earlier this year.

In June, the AICPA and NASBA released the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum. The goal was to aid faculty as they seek to transition their programs to reflect the new Core + Disciplines CPA licensure model promoted through the CPA Evolution initiative. More than 40 volunteer subject-matter experts worked to develop this resource, which was designed to prepare students pursuing CPA licensure. We launched the curriculum resource during a free, virtual event with over 1,500 attendees.

Since the launch, the curriculum resource has been downloaded over 3,500 times. To assess its impact, we conducted several surveys of faculty and firms. We found that:

  • 83% of firms surveyed with 11 or more CPAs said that if university accounting programs were aligned with CPA Evolution, their hiring of new graduates from accounting programs would likely increase, accounting program graduates would be considered more valuable than they are today, or both.
  • 79% of faculty surveyed agreed that the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum aids accounting programs in understanding and meeting the evolving needs of practice.
  • 87% of faculty surveyed listed the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum as one of the most helpful resources in updating their curricula.

The AICPA and NASBA also worked together to request feedback on the resource through our launch event, more than a dozen presentations to educators, and direct outreach to the academic community.

These are the most common questions we received:

Is the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum available in Excel format?

The top request from faculty was to make the curriculum resource available in an Excel format to help them map it to their own curricula. In July, one month after the launch of the PDF version of the resource, we published an Excel supplement.

Are the AICPA and NASBA engaging with textbook publishers?

While faculty told us that they appreciate the curriculum resource and the various case studies, articles, and videos available through the Academic Resource Hub, they wondered whether textbooks would be updated to reflect the material that is most relevant to practice. We are happy to report that we've had ongoing dialogue with several of the major textbook providers and that they and their authors are committed to updating their offerings to meet the needs of faculty and prepare students for the practice environment.

By naming the curriculum resource the "CPA Evolution Model Curriculum," are the AICPA and NASBA suggesting that every accounting program should "model" its curriculum on its contents?

No. Because academic institutions have differing missions and objectives, one example of an accounting curriculum cannot possibly meet the needs of all such institutions.

The CPA Evolution Model Curriculum is designed to be an aid for accounting programs interested in updating their curricula to align with the CPA Evolution initiative. It is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all approach for every program. Accounting programs should use the resource as they deem appropriate based on their program's objectives. To address any confusion related to the resource's title, the AICPA and NASBA have updated our messaging, including modifications to the resource itself, to make this as clear as possible.

Why was content in certain subject-matter areas not addressed in greater depth?

We received numerous questions to this effect. For example, we heard from leaders in the management accounting community that competencies relative to that body of knowledge represent an essential part of the core skill set for all professional accountants, including those in public practice. We could not agree more with this assessment. We also heard there are opportunities to improve the curriculum resource by building upon the learning objectives that are currently included. We appreciate this feedback, have reviewed the recommendations we've received, and have updated the resource based on those detailed suggestions, all while continuing to focus on the skills and competencies required of future CPAs.

We also heard questions about business law and whether its exclusion from the curriculum resource was an indication that this topic has become less relevant to future CPAs. This is not at all the case. The curriculum resource was targeted to content that is generally not addressed through business prerequisites, meaning we presumed that students would complete coursework in areas such as principles of financial and managerial accounting, economics, finance, and business law. Again, we appreciate these questions and will continue to highlight this important distinction.

Finally, we received questions about the depth of coverage in certain specialized areas such as forensic and international accounting. In determining whether such areas should be included in the curriculum resource, we relied on insights from newly licensed CPAs and their supervisors, which were gathered through CPA Exam practice analyses. We also relied on the expertise of our task force members, who were asked to build an aid that could support schools of all sizes, including those with substantial resource constraints. Where we have received feedback relative to specialized areas that were not previously discussed or considered, we have updated the resource as appropriate.

What technological applications should faculty teach, and how would you define "digital acumen"?

In the curriculum resource, we noted several instances where technology could be added to the coverage of select topics. The resource does not recommend any specific technological applications that faculty should be teaching, as technologies are rapidly changing and the specific technologies used will vary by industry and discipline. However, having a reasonable understanding of prevailing technological trends and applications and how they are impacting services such as audit, tax, and accounting is vital for CPAs. We refer to this type of knowledge of technologies as "digital acumen" in the curriculum resource.

Will the curriculum resource be updated to reflect the feedback received?

Yes. In addition to feedback regarding depth of coverage, we received suggestions on how to improve the clarity of certain topics and learning objectives. These have been very helpful, and we made revisions to reflect what we have heard. The updates we made to the curriculum resource are summarized to make it easy for those who have already reviewed it to identify the differences.

What's next for CPA Evolution?

In response to the feedback received, we have issued a revised curriculum resource. We will continue to add resources to the Academic Resource Hub and continue hosting our monthly Faculty Hour webinars to provide deep dives into emerging topics.

The AICPA is conducting a practice analysis to develop a new CPA Exam with a Core + Disciplines structure and content. We expect a Blueprint to be issued for public comment in mid-2022 and finalized in early 2023.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at Feedback@EvolutionofCPA.org.

Jan Taylor, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., is the AICPA's academic in residence. Daniel J. Dustin, CPA, is vice president, state board relations for NASBA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com

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