Evaluating CPE Quality
Have you ever wondered how to compare CPA CPE providers?
The number of continuing professional education providers for Certified Public Accountants and other financial professionals has dramatically increased in the last few years. We have prepared the following checklist to help you evaluate CPE providers.
Of course, we hope FunCPE will be your primary CPA continuing education provider, but we realize that we cannot always provide the exact courses that meet your specific needs.
Checklist for online CPE comparison
1. Review recommended CPE hours
Have you noticed that some CPE providers offer 2 to 3 times the CPE hours as we do for exactly the same book? That may be because they do not pilot test each course to determine the recommended CPE hours or use the word count formula correctly.
2. Locate a physical address for the business
Do you really want to trust your professional license to someone who doesn’t reveal a physical address? Check to see if there is a physical address, perhaps in addition to a P.O. Box. Also verify there is a phone number.
Is the phone usually answered by an answering service? This may indicate the cpe provider is just a “storefront” for courses created elsewhere or a part-time business.
3. Determine the provider’s regulatory authority
Who regulates CPE providers? Here is a short course on the rule makers for CPE providers:
National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, working jointly with the AICPA issues regulations for CPE for CPAs on a national basis. States can opt to follow NASBA guidelines or use their own state requirements.
Quality Assurance Service(QAS) is a set of regulations governing self-study CPE for certain states that is more stringent than the standard NASBA requirements. Currently QAS courses are required for AR, FL, KS, MN, OR, TN and WV.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants issues regulations jointly with NASBA
Department of the Treasury, Office of the Secretary regulates IRS Enrolled Agents and related CPE
Institute for Management Accountants regulates Certified in Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Financial Manager (CFM) designations and related CPE
States (for CPAs)
Each state regulates the CPAs in that state
CPE providers for CPAs can elect to either join NASBA or register with individual states (or both). Many states do not registration of any type.
While all states have specific CPE requirements that must be followed, most states do not require registration of CPE providers, and several states accept CPE from providers registered in another state.
4. Assess the age of the courses
The published state guidelines state that the courses should be reviewed and updated annually. Do the courses show a revision date, or last date updated?
5. Check out the guarantee
Most providers offer a 30 day guarantee, but of course a longer guarantee is more desireable. You might need the longer guarantee if you don’t end up taking the courses your purchased right away.
6. Read the testimonials
Notice if last names and/or cities are included in the quotation–or perhaps there are no customer testimonials at all?
7. Review the state acceptance listings
Do you see your state listed on some sites but not others as being a state that accepts CPE from a provider? CPA state requirements are often confusing and ambiguous, and can change frequently. State acceptance listings can vary from one CPE provider to another due to interpretations of the requirements or infrequent updating.
Be sure to be aware of your state’s requirements and email the cpe provider before taking an exam if you are unsure if the provider’s cpe meets your needs.
8. Assess how long the provider has been in business
It’s hard to say whether or not a CPE provider will suddenly go out of business. But it does happen. The best predictor of whether or not a business will stay in business is quite likely how long it has already been in business.
For an in-depth review of how many CPE Providers have gone out of business, we have memorialized them on our R.I.P summary.
Where are they now?
The following is a summary of what happened to the 14 CPE providers reviewed way back in 2003 by the AICPA Journal of Accountancy.
Journal of Accountancy Review of Online CPE Providers
Almost 20 years ago, in 2003 the AICPA Journal of Accountancy published their second review of online CPA CPE providers. In an article titled “Online CPE—Getting Easier All the Time. Web-based study finally is living up to its potential” they reviewed 14 providers.
Naturally, the first provider highlighted is their own CPA2biz.com, which is no longer using that name, but redirects to the aicpastore.com website.
Out of the other 13 provides, only 6 are still in business, with 5 acquired and 3 nowhere to be found.
Seay, Robert A., et al. “Online CPE–Getting Easier All the Time.” AICPA Journal of Accountancy, July 1, 2003
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The American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) was established in 1887 as a professional organization for what were then called “Public Accountants.” The AICPA offers free online subscriptions to Journal of Accountancy news alerts about tax, financial reporting, auditing and other topics. Journal of Accountancy podcast episodes are also available.
Journal of Accountancy Review:
Acquired or Out-of-Business
CPE providers purchased by Thomson Reuters (Checkpoint Learning)
- CPEasy (cpeasy.com)
- Micromash (micromash.net)
- PassOnline (passonline.com)
- PPCUniversity (ppcuniversity.com)
CPE provider purchased by Kaplan
- SmartPros (smartpros.com)
Out of Business
- EMind (emind.com)
- National Tax Institute (nationaltaxinstitute.com)
- CE OneSource (fp.edu)