Hamline boasts high CPA exam pass rates

Hamline’s accounting program ranks first in Minnesota and 11th in the nation.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Each year, the pass rates for the certified public accounting (CPA) exam are tallied and released six months later, and for 2017, Hamline’s numbers were particularly high, with 73 percent of graduates passing the exam on their first try.

“[In] 2017, the Hamline graduates who took the CPA exam for the first time… their pass rate was first in the state,” Dr. Anne McCarthy, Dean of the School of Business, said.

Out of 252 small programs, which are classified as having between 10 and 20 graduates per year, Hamline ranked 11th in the nation. Among all programs, whether small, medium or large, Hamline ranked 38th out of 797.

The prior year, Hamline came in second in the state of Minnesota, surpassed only by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

“They have such volume, so it’s really hard to compete with that,” accounting professor Chad Sponsler said.

In 2014, the first year that Hamline’s accounting program rolled out its own graduates, Hamline ranked third in the state and ninth in the nation.

McCarthy stated that she believes the high pass rates will alert prospective employers to the academic rigor of Hamline’s accounting program, whereas before they might have passed over Hamline graduates due to the major’s relative newness on campus and lack of visibility.

“Having a high pass rate, and publicizing it, means that firms who didn’t even know we had an accounting program, now know that we have an accounting program,” McCarthy said. “Not only that we have an accounting program, but that it’s a really good accounting program, so that they may be more likely to hire Hamline students where they wouldn’t have been interested in hiring Hamline students before, so it makes our students very competitive in the job market.”

While not all accounting majors will choose a career in public accounting, McCarthy highly recommends the CPA exam for all students, regardless of whether they opt for public, private or nonprofit accounting.

“Once you have the CPA you have more choices,” McCarthy said.“Even private firms like to see students who do well on the CPA.”

The test, which is computerized and taken one part at a time, consists of four sections: Auditing and Attestation, Financial Accounting & Reporting, Regulation and Business Environment and Concepts.

“It’s unusual for someone to pass all four in a very short period of time,” Sponsler said. “I don’t think many people even take, you know, more than maybe two at a time.”

Nancy Webber, Professor of Management and Economics, stressed the prestige of the exam and the pride she takes in Hamline’s graduates.

“We’re very proud of the CPA exam in many regards, it’s harder to pass than your medical boards or the bar for an attorney, because the three years of schooling sets you up to be able to do that,” Webber said. “With the CPA exam, the breadth and depth of study is so vast… We don’t do anything watered down.”