Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
June 23, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

UT, Knoxville announces encouraging plan to address the CPA shortage

TSCPA with the help of PYA, and other CPA firms has launched campaigns across the state encouraging legislatures to sign STEM bills to make this academic shift statewide.

In 2021, U.S. Representatives Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN) introduced a piece of legislation that had the power to rewrite the STEM landscape. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics studies, but this legislation would add accounting to the mix. They called it the “Accounting STEM Pursuit Act of 2021 (H.R. 3855).”

Today, the bill remains active in the 118th Congress as H.R. 3541. However, the bill is now being co-led by Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Rep. Young Kim (R-CA).

In a Tennessee CPA Journal article in October 2021 discussing this topic, PYA’s Director of Talent Acquisition, Catie Scott, and the firm’s Principal of Client Advisory Services, Pat Lewis, CPA, CGMA, discussed the importance of this topic, explaining how each year the number of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) continues to decline. And, every day demand is driving more positions to open.

Analysts predicted that from 2018 to 2028, more than 90,000 jobs would be created in the accounting and auditing fields. So far, we’re seeing that play out.

The whole goal of the “Accounting STEM Pursuit Act of 2021” was to change STEM to STEAM, with the “A” representing accounting. It was intended to get more students interested and excited about accounting careers. The response from the academic community was overwhelmingly positive and supportive as the change was rolled out.

Then, came a curve ball. Somewhere along the line, people began interpreting the “A” as “Arts.” Once again, accounting representation was left to the wayside.

Despite this unfortunate chain of events, the Accounting and Information Management department at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has been working behind the scenes to establish an accredited accounting STEM program.

At a recent meeting at PYA’s Knoxville headquarters, Dr. Terry Neal, the Head of the Department, announced the approval of the accreditation to PYA, and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA).

UTK’s Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program has achieved a significant milestone by receiving STEM designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The MAcc curriculum has been meticulously redesigned to incorporate STEM-related coursework, ensuring graduates are equipped to address complex financial challenges in today’s dynamic business environment.

“Our MAcc program has undergone a comprehensive redesign to align with STEM principles,” said Dr. Robert Fuller, Director of the MAcc Program at UTK, who led the efforts in the accreditation process. “We’ve introduced new courses and updated existing ones to emphasize quantitative analysis, data analytics, and technological proficiency, empowering our students to excel as strategic leaders in accounting and finance.”

Mike Shamblin, PYA Managing Principal of Audit & Assurance Services, agrees with the importance of incorporating STEM principles into accounting programs in Tennessee and across the nation.

“As the number of accounting students and CPA candidates has declined, this is an important step to attracting more students to the accounting industry.  It is also important as the application of technology and advanced analytics in the accounting industry continues to expand,” Shamblin said.

Neal and Fuller agree that the accreditation will open doors for more international students to participate in the program, feature more hands-on experiential learning opportunities for students, create collaborative projects with industry partners, and participate in cutting-edge research.

“We started this a long time ago and have been focused on putting together a program based on the community needs,” said Neal in the meeting with PYA and TSCPA.

He said the STEM designation will also offer MAcc graduates a competitive advantage in the job market including competitive opportunities in accounting, finance, and consulting.

Additionally, international students completing the program may be eligible for visa extensions under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, facilitating their transition to professional roles in the United States.

Neal further shared that enrollment numbers are encouraging to the college. In the 2023-24 academic year, the university had more than 600 people majoring in accounting. He expects that number will continue to grow with the new STEM designation.

However, despite the exciting news, the work isn’t done. TSCPA, with the help of PYA and other CPA firms, has launched campaigns across the state encouraging legislators to sign STEM bills to make this academic shift statewide. looks forward to keeping the community updated on this legislation and the importance of this curriculum for the accounting industry.

Like what you've read?

Forward to a friend!

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!