UWL students rank among top performers nationally on CPA exam

Will Maas, UWL Accountancy Department chair, teaching a class. Accountancy students have consistently had one of the highest pass rates in the nation on the Certified Public Accountant exam.

UW-La Crosse College of Business Administration students have once again achieved one of the highest pass rates in the nation.

Students in the Accountancy program had the highest first-time pass rate in the nation on the Certified Public Accountant exam among undergraduate-only programs in the large program category. This category is schools with more than 60 exam candidates.

Among the 270 schools in the large program category, that includes both undergraduate and graduate programs, UWL was in the top 10 percent at No. 22 overall.

“It’s gratifying to be recognized not only as the best comprehensive in the state, but as the finest undergraduate-only program in the nation,” says Laura Milner, CBA dean. “Every other institution who fared better in the results had at least a Masters of Accountancy program, if not a doctoral program in accounting.”

About 75 percent of UWL students passed the exam the first time. The only other Wisconsin school with such a high first-time pass rate was UW-Madison, which ranked No. 5 with an 85 percent pass rate. Other large schools in Wisconsin to make the top 40 list were Marquette University at No. 33 and UW-Milwaukee at No. 38.

“We have strong students, and the faculty in the Accountancy Department, CBA and UWL as a whole focus on student learning, so our students graduate with a solid foundation for passing the CPA exam,” says Will Maas, UWL Accountancy Department chair.

Such distinctiveness is also the outcome of a rigorous curriculum taught by an exceptional faculty to outstanding students, adds Milner.

“Because of exceptional outcomes from the CBA — as the exam results demonstrate — the college’s industry partners continue to be very supportive and engaged with the college,” she says.

UWL has consistently had one of the highest CPA exam pass rates in the country, notes Maas.

“This demonstrates the past and present strength of the program,” he explains. “We are proud of all the professional accomplishments of our alums, as well as non-professional accomplishments. Students graduate from UWL and make positive contributions to the businesses and communities where they work and live.”

Other Wisconsin schools to make the top 40 in smaller program categories include:

  • UW-Oshkosh
  • Wisconsin Lutheran College
  • UW-Platteville
  • Concordia University

About the CPA exam

The certified public accountant exam is a rigorous, 14-hour exam that measures average knowledge in a broad range of accounting and business concepts. Passing the CPA exam is among the requirements for licensure as a CPA. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and most other states also require 150 college credits to be licensed as a CPA.

Diverse topics on the exam include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding the audit process including identifying internal controls, risks, performing analysis on data and results obtained during the audit.
  • Financial reporting of transactions and financial statements for profit, non-profit, and governmental entities with more than a hundred different accounting standards to follow and understand for different transactions such as goodwill impairment or recording a lease of business assets properly.
  • Business law, taxation of individuals and business entities.
  • Concepts related to corporate governance, economics, financial management and information systems.