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KNOXVILLE — In an economic climate where every dollar counts, the accounting profession is more important now than ever before. Stakeholders throughout the economy base critical decisions on the information accounting professionals provide.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 44 percent of small businesses survive for only four years due to overly optimistic financial projections, poor cash flow management and inadequate internal controls. These numbers are particularly alarming since small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers, employ more than half of all private sector employees, pay 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll and have generated 64 percent of net new jobs during the past 15 years.

To study and recommend improvements in accounting education, the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) teamed to form the Pathways Commission. Its objective is to develop strategies and structures to ensure an adequate supply of the best diverse talent to sustain the accounting profession over the long term.

Bruce Behn, Ergen Professor in the College of Business Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will chair the Pathways Commission.

The commission will seek input from the full spectrum of the accounting community, involving representatives of organizations and educational institutions that impact accounting education. The goal is to facilitate an open, transparent environment to be supported by both technology and public discussions. Recognizing the difficulty of sustaining momentum for change in the dynamic environment of accounting practice and education, the commission also will structure its efforts to continue into the future.

“Interest in accounting as a career is the highest it’s ever been and underscores the need to make sure the educational infrastructure remains solid and able to meet the profession’s evolving requirements,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon. Melancon served on the Human Capital Subcommittee of the U.S. Treasury Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession that mandated the development of the commission.

Behn said the accounting profession is involved with producing, analyzing, interpreting and preparing reports, as well as verifying financial and operational information. “Having accurate data is essential for our free enterprise capital market system,” he said.

The accounting profession is faced with several educational challenges: a shortage of qualified instructors with accounting doctorates, the need to revise accounting curricula regularly in light of fast-paced business changes, university budget constraints that threaten to make the cost of education prohibitive, and the need for specialized training to meet the profession’s demands.

“Not to mention the globalization of businesses and financial markets, high-profile frauds that have impacted investors, increased complexities in businesses and increased regulation,” added Behn. “We need to ensure that accounting professionals are prepared to meet the information needs of the public, organizations, lenders and the capital markets, thereby protecting the public interest.”

The commission will be soliciting input from a broad spectrum of educators, practitioners and users of accounting information. They represent over 600 years of practice experience and 580 years of education experience.

Specifically on the education side will be leaders involved in K-12 education, two-year and four-year schools, and graduate and doctoral programs.

“In fact,” said Behn, “the dean of our college, Jan Williams, is involved as chair-elect of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the major accreditation agency for business schools and accounting programs.”

The other members of the six-member Pathways Commission are:

  • William Ezzell, national managing partner, legislative and regulatory relations, Deloitte LLP
  • Leslie Murphy, president and CEO, Murphy Consulting Inc.
  • Judy Rayburn, chair, department of accounting, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
  • Jerry Strawser, dean and KPMG chair in accounting, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University
  • Melvin Stith, dean, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

The commission will hold its first meeting Oct. 15-17 in Washington, D.C.

More information on the commission may be found at .

For more information about the UT Knoxville College of Business Administration, visit


Cindy Raines (865-974-4359,