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Why high school business electives make a difference

Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 by Gary Hunt

Why high school business electives make a difference
By Jennifer Rieman, CAE, manager, public relations

Some high schoolers blow off their senior year. Not John Stalcup’s students. The accounting and finance teacher at Stebbins High School in Riverside guides his seniors through the second year of an intensive two-year program designed to prepare students for careers in accounting and finance.

“It’s kind of like a high school major,” Stebbins said. “By the time we get through two years we’ve gone through what a first year accounting student would experience in college.”

The results are impressive. Ninety percent of his students go on to college and 50-60% decide to major in accounting.

Stalcup thinks more high schools should offer business classes, and the research supports it. According to the AICPA, the availability of and taking a high school accounting class is the most influential factor in a student’s decision to major in accounting in college.

“Elective classes like business have been put on the back burner and sometimes eliminated because of money,” Stalcup said. “We’re not doing society much good because the majority of people go into business in some area.”

Stalcup, a former corporate accountant, has been teaching for 24 years. While his background comes in handy for teaching accounting, it’s the promise of an exciting and in-demand career that sells the kids.

“I emphasize to my students the benefits of an accounting career and the opportunities that the major represents,” he said. “I tell them that a very large percentage of students that graduate with a degree in accounting end up getting a job right after graduation.”

Programs such as The Ohio CPA Foundation’s High School Accounting Career Days help reinforce his message. Each year, he brings his top students to one of the programs held throughout the state.

“Even though I worked in accounting and have been teaching it for years, I’m still their teacher,” he said. “So when they hear me tell them things and then its reiterated by someone who’s in the profession, that backs up what I’ve been telling them. It gives more credence to what I’ve been saying.”

High School Accounting Career Days include speakers currently employed in accounting and a student panel of college accounting majors. The program is a nice compliment to Stalcup’s work.

“I’ve probably brought over 50 students to High School Accounting Career Days over the years, and I can’t think of one that said they didn’t want to do accounting anymore after attending,” he said. “It’s either backed up their decision to pursue the major, or if they were on the fence, it’s pushed them to the accounting side.”

A year-end gift to The Ohio CPA Foundation’s Annual Fund Campaign will directly support pipeline initiatives such as High School Accounting Career Days that support students on the path to the CPA profession. To learn more or make a contribution, visit or contact Jerad Wood.

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