LU graduate accounting program first graduate accounting program in state to become a STEM designated degree

Lamar University’s graduate accounting program is the first graduate program in Texas to become a STEM designated degree in a public university.  The acronym STEM simply refers to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  The concept of the STEM designation is to identify academic programs that educate students for occupation to which they use science, math or technology to solve problems and drive innovation to generate new ideas, develop new products and services and form new organizations. 

The new trend among United States universities is to have their graduate accounting programs designated as a STEM degree (e.g., Tulane University, Arizona State University, Ohio State University, University of Illinois and Wiliam & Mary University).   Additionally, bi-partisan legislation, the Accounting STEM Pursuit Act, has been proposed in Washington.  There is broad support for this legislation (e.g., American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Center for Audit Quality, and National of Association of Black Accountants).  The CEO of Public Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants stated: “The Accounting STEM Pursuit Act will promote more diversity, equity and inclusion in the profession.” 

In January of 2021, the Lamar University accounting faculty reviewed the CPA Evolution Project of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  The Project addressed the CPA exam requirements and skill set needed for future CPAs and proposed a core-plus-discipline change to the Uniform CPA Exam, effective January 2024. This change will require candidates sitting for the CPA exam to demonstrate proficiency in the core areas –– accounting, tax and technology –– plus skills in one of three disciplines; tax compliance and planning, business analysis and reporting or information systems and controls. The American Accounting Association evaluated the accounting curricula to determine how data analytics, IT audit, cybersecurity, blockchain and other related topics were being incorporated therein and proposed a CPA Evolution Model Curriculum.  In July 2021, the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy gathered information from Texas educational institution business schools and accounting departments about their readiness for the new CPA Evolution Model Curriculum. 

In addressing the above changes to the CPA exam and accounting curriculum (i.e., the need for accounting graduates to possess additional quantitative, data analytics and technology skills) as well as growing trend of universities obtaining STEM designations for their graduate accounting programs, the accounting faculty developed a proposal to address the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum and have the Lamar University Master of Science in Professional Accounting designated as a STEM degree. The proposal was accepted, and the Master of Science in Professional Accounting was approved as a STEM designated degree by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in December 2021.  
Dr. Dan French, Dean of the College of Business, stated, “Being a STEM designated graduate accounting degree recognizes the dynamic changes in technology platforms and emerging technologies in the global corporate community as well as providing our students with a foundation in quantitative, data analytics and technology skills to be successful in this global environment.  Moreover, a STEM designated degree is attractive to international students since under Optional Practical Training, foreign students who graduate from US universities may stay and work in the United States for one year after graduation; however, those who complete STEM degrees may extend OPT for an additional 24 months, resulting in a 36-month OPT.”