Making Accounting More Accessible

By Laura Ilioaei ’23, August 31, 2022

Program exposes high school students to careers in accounting.

When prospective college students think of business or business-adjacent careers, accounting is a field that often gets overlooked. Margaret Shackell, associate professor of accounting and business law at Ithaca College, is looking to change that. That’s why, this past summer, she, along with dozens of other faculty and staff members across the IC campus, worked with the School of Business to host the Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession (COAP) program, bringing high school students to South Hill for three days.

“Accounting is a pretty excellent career opportunity. It’s interesting, it’s well-paid, it’s important, and not a lot of students know about it, especially if they don’t have family in accounting or in business,” Shackell said.

The program is part of an initiative by the New York State Society of CPAs to increase efforts to recruit minorities into the accounting profession, while allowing anyone to explore career paths in accounting. It’s also an example of the college’s strategic plan goals of being a year-round campus and being a national model for colleges committed to the values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

“We asked students at the beginning of the program if they wanted to be an accountant, and a lot of them said things like, ‘No, I want to major in biochemistry. But at the end of the day, a lot of them said, ‘Honestly, I would consider a major in accounting.’ So, I think they responded well.”

Margaret Shackell, associate professor of accounting and business law

“In accounting we’ve seen a decline in enrollment but an increase in jobs available,” Shackell said. “There’s a big gap between the graduates and the jobs that are available. I regularly have HR managers in CPA firms calling me and asking, ‘Do you have more students? We have more jobs. Do you have more students?’ And we just don’t have enough students.”

During the program, students took part in a three-day informative experience that guided them through career paths, the college admissions process, how to gain financial aid, and what it’s really like to work in an accounting firm. They were also exposed to data analytics work and toured IC’s campus, specifically the School of Business, and local accounting firms Sciarabba Walker and Insero.

As a partnering institution, high school seniors who take part in the COAP program and attend Ithaca College are eligible to apply for a scholarship that covers $2,000 per year over the course of five years—accounting majors are often required to use an extra year to do masters’ degree work that will get them CPA-certified.

While the program has been in place for several years, due to the COVID pandemic this was the first year that high school students were hosted on campus, and it had a great impact on the students who attended.

“It was very interesting. We asked students at the beginning of the program if they wanted to be an accountant, and a lot of them said things like, ‘No, I want to major in biochemistry,’” Shackell said. “But at the end of the day, a lot of them said, ‘Honestly, I would consider a major in accounting.’ So, I think they responded well. I hope the program means more students interested in accounting.”