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The 259th Largest Accounting Firm Is Paying For Unlicensed Staff to Pursue a Master’s at the 87th Best Online Business School

a cat studying in a library

Tiny little Southfield, MI firm Clayton & McKervey won’t be making Vault prestige lists any time soon but it is doing something to support its people through the process of getting the necessary 150 units for licensure: offering scholarships.

Ranked #259 on the INSIDE Public Accounting Top 500 with revenue of $16,392,083, Clayton & McKervey has partnered with U.S. News & World Report “Most Innovative School” in the Midwest Adrian College to offer matching scholarships that cut the cost of a master’s by half.

As you’ll see from the press release below, both the school and the firm hope that this perk will entice new recruits in an increasingly strained talent market:

Adrian College’s Dean of Graduate Studies and Institutional Effectiveness, Christine Knaggs, Ph.D., said when Clayton & McKervey hires an accountant who has yet to pass their Certified Public Accountant Examination, and possibly needs additional credits, they will offer the employee a scholarship incentive to attend Adrian College and get the qualifications and knowledge needed to pass the exam through its MS program.

“This has been a model that we have wanted to implement for a while now,” Knaggs said. “What we essentially offer is matching scholarships. They offer a scholarship, we offer a scholarship, which significantly reduces overall the cost of the entire program for staff accountants who are hired by Clayton & McKervey.”

With the combined scholarships, students see a savings of approximately 50% of the total cost of the MS degree.

Knaggs believes this specific partnership program will add two to five new students a year to Adrian College’s overall enrollment, but expects those numbers will grow in the future with more accounting firms wanting to join in to help educate and advance their employees to CPA status.

“It’s small numbers right now because this is a relatively small firm, but this is a great model we hope to bring to other accounting firms to say, ‘look, we do this, it works, would you like to do something similar?’” Knaggs said, adding that accountants are in high demand right now.

“Some of our students are getting offers before they get their undergraduate degree,” she said. “So, small firms like this are looking for any opportunity to incentivize. If they can say, ‘come to us, you can get your master’s degree, we’re going to discount it a great amount, and we’re also going to prepare you for your CPA exam,’ it’s a package they can use to recruit staff accountants potentially from a larger firm.”

“To me, when you’re coming into public accounting, what you should do is look for how well you’re being trained, how well you’re being coached,” Jim Biehl, Clayton & McKervey CPA, MST, Shareholder said in a web presentation. “That’s the currency that you need to look for when you’re looking for a job. It’s not how much money you make. [Ed. note: LOL] It’s how much you’re learning, because five years in, if you’ve learned what you should have learned, you’re very marketable and you can go anywhere you want to go.”

Knaggs explained that Adrian College’s MS program is a fully online degree designed for students working full-time in a firm, and wanting CPA credentials. Most of the program’s students are self-paced, but a majority complete the degree in one year. All of the classes are led by Adrian College professors.

“Because it’s fully online, we can partner with firms all over the state, all over the country, potentially,” Knaggs said.

“The classes are completely taught by our faculty, Donna Baker and Laura Bearden, the two who essentially created the program, and a wonderful collection of adjunct instructors as well that supplement and teach some of the other courses,” Knaggs said. “We have some of the best CPA passage rates in the state.” [Fact check: 64.7% of Adrian College MS Accountancy students pass the CPA exam (self-reported figure). This rate is 11% higher than the MI average and 14% higher than the national average]

Accounting firm partners with Adrian College to offer employees major discount in MSA program [Adrian College]
Adrian College [U.S. News & World Report]