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OSCPA makes strong push for exam reform

Written on May 1, 2020

By Gary Hunt, OSCPA communication director

Student members impacted by Ohio’s 150-hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam told legislators Feb. 12 that changing the rule will encourage young professionals to stay in the state.

Travis Whitt, an accounting major at The Ohio State University, told members of the House Commerce & Labor Committee that if he chooses to take the exam in Ohio, he will have to begin his professional career without getting a head start on his CPA certification. That will not only cost him income, but it will be tougher because he will be working and studying simultaneously.

“That means in my first year of work, I would be spending my free time studying intensively. I am told that each section takes 80-100 hours of studying – and that’s if the material is fresh.”

Whitt, along with fellow Ohio State accounting majors and OSCPA student members Olivia Abdallah and Cassandra Edelstein, told legislators that House Bill 442 will prevent future accounting students from “having to deal with academic hurdles students in 37 other states don’t have."

Ohio now requires that a candidate be within 90 days of completing 150 hours of college education before being eligible to take the CPA exam. Under the OSCPA-supported bill, students could start taking the Exam when they have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent of 120 hours, which is now permitted in 37 other states. 150 hours of college education and one year of work experience would still be required to obtain the CPA license to ensure these individuals could continue to qualify under interstate mobility laws.

Abdallah shared the results of a recent statewide OSCPA survey of college student members that “helped reveal what we’ve also seen at Ohio State.”

  • 90% plan to take the CPA Exam.
  • 73% were unaware they can circumvent Ohio’s 150-hour law by sending their scores to an existing 120-hour state. “Generally, those who do know about it either learned it from their peers or from even their professors,” Abdallah said.
  • 58.5% do not want to wait as long as Ohio law requires to take the exam.
  • 89% would be more likely to transfer their scores back to Ohio if Ohio were to become a 120 state.
  • 80% think the current requirements to become licensed in Ohio (if they sent their scores to an existing 120 state) are a disincentive to work as a CPA in Ohio.

Also testifying was OSCPA Young CPA Leadership Board Chairman Colin McHugh, CPA, senior manager of assurance and financial reporting at Rehmann in Toledo. He told the committee that allowing licensed CPAs to get their careers started sooner will help them better address student loan debt.

“I had classmates with $80,000 in debt,” McHugh said. “CPAs are well paid, but $80,000 is a large burden when you’re 23, 24 years old and want to do things like buy a house or start a family.”

Rep. Michael Sheehy, D-Toledo, summarized McHugh’s comments during the Q&A session.

“Your contention is that this is part of the brain drain that we have in the State of Ohio…. that this would help stop that sort of movement of CPAs going from Ohio to other states,” Sheehy said. “… It’d be fair to say Ohioans are educating these people, and other states are the beneficiaries, and we want to turn that around.”

“Getting this moved forward could help keep people in Ohio, yes,” McHugh replied.

Finally, OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley, CAE, told the group that HB 442 also will help the Society’s goal of increasing diversity in the profession.

“For non-traditional students who need to work while finishing college – a scenario which disproportionately impacts minorities – supportive employers may help with tuition reimbursement or cover the costs of CPA review courses and the test itself. Other employers give a bonus when they become licensed.

“Bottom line: anyone who has taken the CPA Exam, or knows someone who has, will attest that it is not easy to pass and only gets harder the longer the process drags on,” Wiley said.

View the Feb. 12 hearing in its entirety.

Pictured, left to right, are Ohio State accounting majors Travis Whitt of Altamont, Ill., Olivia Abdallah of Cleveland, and Cassandra Edelstein of Long Island, NY, who testified on Feb. 12 on Ohio’s CPA exam reform bill.

OSCPA members can help!

OSCPA members: Tell your representatives why HB442 is needed! We’ll help you by providing your legislators’ contact information, talking points, and guidance on how best to get your message out. Contact your government relations team now for more information.