Regional business leaders excited about IU East’s new accounting degree program

Regional employers are thrilled at the addition of a Bachelor of Science in Accounting to be offered at Indiana University East this fall, saying the degree will help with a growing demand for graduates with accounting expertise.

IU East School of Business and Economics will offer an accounting degree beginning fall 2021. IU and IU East anticipate returning to mostly normal operations for the fall 2021 semester, meaning more events and classes will be in-person and less restrictions on masking and physical distancing.

IU East School of Business and Economics will offer an accounting degree beginning fall 2021.
IU and IU East anticipate returning to mostly normal operations for the fall 2021 semester, meaning more events and classes will be in-person and less restrictions on masking and physical distancing.

“As I am out meeting with local companies on a regular basis, I can attest that accounting professionals are in high demand by local employers,” said Valerie Shaffer, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County. “Every company depends on the expertise of accounting professionals as a core member of their team.”

Shaffer is an IU East alumna and received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2005.

Shari Fowler, assistant professor of accounting and director of accounting, said IU East’s School of Business and Economics designed the degree to support students seeking an engaging and flexible program with interest in entering the accounting profession.

IU East has previously offered a CPA accounting concentration and a managerial accounting concentration. When those concentrations were converted to minors in 2019, it became clear an accounting minor required more courses to prepare students to sit for a CPA or CMA license.

“In short, it was too many courses to fit into a minor. To continue to supply a degree that would meet the demand for accounting professionals, the school is shifting to this Bachelor of Science in Accounting,” Fowler said.

The degree will help meet an increasing demand for skilled accounting candidates with regional employers.

Craig Kinyon, president and CEO of Reid Health – the region’s largest employer – said his and other organizations always have a need for the skillset.

“We have an ongoing need for the recruitment and retention of staff with accounting degrees,” Kinyon said.

At Reid Health, multiple departments can benefit from candidates with the training — not just the Accounting Department. Patient Financial Services, Financial Analysis and Internal Audit are examples. Kinyon said this degree background would be a good supporting skill for any managerial position with budget responsibility.

“Within every business, there are different roles. In every business, if you are collecting or spending money, you need skilled accountants,” said Kinyon, who is a degreed accountant and CPA himself.  “I have a full appreciation of what my degree meant to me in my career, as well as how this knowledge benefited me in numerous life experiences.”

The degree is designed to satisfy requirements for students interested in going on to graduate school, sitting for the CPA or CMA exam, or pursuing a professional accounting position. Fowler said the demand is clearly there.

“The Indiana Department of Workforce Development Employment Projections for Accountants and Auditors reports that there is an expected increase of 11% in employment for accountants and auditors by 2026. The report also gives accountants/auditors a demand rating of 5/5 which is the highest rating available. This rating is based on high wages and high demand in Indiana. The report also shows a rise in employment for accountants in Wayne County of an even higher rate of 12.6% by 2026. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow 6% nationally from 2018 to 2028.”

Fowler said the degree program is structured to allow students “to be successful in the accounting industry and to be adaptive to a rapidly changing business environment.”  She said the program will include:

  • Mock interview opportunities for all accounting grads in local CPA office
  • Attendance at professional meetings and conferences
  • Inclusion of a highly relevant business analytics course in the curriculum
  • Completion of the Indiana Society of CPAs Center of Excellence professional Ethics course

“A unique feature is the capstone eportfolio project. It allows students the chance to demonstrate the skills and knowledge learned over the course and present them to graduate schools and potential employers in a dynamic and visually appealing way,” Fowler said.

Heather (Ferris) Hall graduated from IU East in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. She definitely sees the benefit of a full degree program.

“The new option should allow more resources and flexibility to be available to students and professors,” Hall said.

Hall is a senior accountant at Brady Ware & Company in Richmond, an accounting and business advisory firm, where she started as an intern while still in college. She said the degree program should make transitioning to firms like hers somewhat easier, noting how having more internships available to future students will help both students and firms needing accountants.

“I’m excited to see what comes of this new program,” Hall said.

Jeffrey A Jackson, CPA/PFS, CFP, with Brady Ware & Company in Richmond, believes the degree will help with future employment needs that often can be challenging.

“We have very little turnover, but we have had the best results when our recruits have ties to the community. We have almost always hired following an internship experience,” Jackson said.

He anticipates developing a strong internship program based on the new IU East degree, hopefully solidifying future needs at the firm.

“I believe there will be continued demand throughout the region for new accountants at Brady Ware and in the private sector overall,” Jackson said.

Fowler said the CPA and Managerial Accounting concentrations were among the most popular programs in the School of Business and Economics.

“We are confident that this will be a successful program as it simply expands the educational opportunities that we can provide to students interested in pursuing an accounting career. We are also one of the only schools in the area offering a bachelor’s degree in accounting in a flexible format with the option to take courses and participate in student events online,” Fowler said.

Melissa Vance, president/CEO of the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, agrees there is a demand for these graduates.

“Accounting is a field that every employer in Wayne County needs. While we often at first think of financial institutions, manufacturers, service providers and government agencies – just to name a few – are often seeking people to fill these roles. And the great thing about having this degree available right here in Wayne County is the opportunity for businesses to attract interns and employees for a smooth transition upon graduation,” Vance said.

Fowler said IU East has plans to further develop and expand the program over time, including adding student travel opportunities, nationwide internships and mentorships, and a Beta Alpha Psi chapter, an international honor organization for financial information students and professionals.

Shaffer sees the new degree as a boon to the regional economy.

“As IU East continues to add new degree programs, it benefits our local economy most when the programs are utilized by employers in the region who have a demand for the degree. IU East has done just that with the creation of this program. It will create a strong pipeline of candidates for local employers,” Shaffer said.

For more information on the Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree, visit iue.edu/academics.