Western Carolina University students and graduates of the accountancy program once again have scored better than the state and national averages on the certified public accountant exam.
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, which compiles data related to the exam required to become a CPA, ranked students in WCU’s Dixon Hughes Goodman Accountancy Program as 31st nationally among 294 medium-sized programs based upon results from their first-time attempt. WCU achieved a 59.6 percent overall pass rate in 2016, exceeding the state average of 52.7 percent and the national average of 48.7 percent.
“I am very excited about these results because it is indicative of a pattern of exceptional results,” said Susan L. Swanger, professor and director of the WCU’s Master of Accountancy Program. “This is the second year in a row that WCU has broken into the top 40 list released by the accountancy association.”
The WCU College of Business offers core classes for the Master of Accountancy Program at the university’s Biltmore Park location in Asheville and the undergraduate accounting program on the Cullowhee campus. The programs are designed to prepare future generations of accountants for the public accounting profession, as well as for industry, government and nonprofit organizations. Students gain the knowledge and tools they need to meet the state board requirements for CPA licensure, Swanger said.
“The course work certainly prepared me for the rigors of taking the CPA exam,” said alumna Kendra Ferguson, audit manager at Carter P.C. in Asheville. “All of my classes included real-world examples, many of which related to local companies or companies that were well known, which helped bring the material to life. I wasn’t surprised at how much studying and preparation I had to do for the CPA exam when I began sitting for it.
“The professors at Western are heavily invested in the success of their students,” she said. “I received incredible support from my professors, not just during my time in the program, but also after graduation. The small classroom size creates a close-knit group that serves as a great network as you enter a new career. My network of classmates has served me very well in my career in public accounting.”
In addition to her day job, Ferguson serves on the Audit Committee for Buncombe County and is president-elect of the Junior League of Asheville. “Looking back, one of the most beneficial lessons I learned in the WCU program was how to work effectively in a team,” she said. “There were plenty of group projects that allowed me to figure out how my work and learning styles best served a team.”
Brooke T. Mathis, a current student who lives in Sylva but is originally from Hayesville, spoke about how the program doesn’t teach to the test. “Although our program is not CPA exam-based, I think WCU students are at an advantage,” she said. “Our professors have a lot of industry knowledge that they share with us in the classroom, and I think their experiences help us to better understand the concepts of the exam content instead of just trying to memorize the material being tested.”