New York (Aug. 8, 2003) -- The fate of the CPA specialty credentials moved closer to a conclusion Thursday when the American Institute of CPAs' invited feedback on possible scenarios to either keep, alter, or jettison all three.

Following a contentious debate at the AICPA's Spring Council meeting in May, the council passed a resolution directing the Institute to "investigate possible strategies, including strategic partners, to enhance the Personal Financial Specialist, Certified Information Technology Professional and Accredited in Business Valuation credentials."

In its invitation to comment, the Institute released selected information from a series of online surveys and Town Hall teleconferences, held after Council, which sought input from both credential holders and members at large.

Essentially, holders of all three credentials expressed pride in their designations and a desire to keep them within the AICPA. However, while about half said they'd pay $250 to $500 more per year to help brand the credential, others weren't so willing, saying they felt funds for their programs should come out of general AICPA member dues.

A poll of general membership, however, found that most think credential programs should fully support themselves.

And the AICPA said it would probably take a substantial increase in dues "perhaps by a factor of eight to ten times current dues level" to retain the designations and fully market and brand them.

The National Accreditation Committee, which sent out the Invitations to Comment Wednesday, noted that the credential programs must break even to be considered successful, and placed a 3-year deadline for break-even as a benchmark for all proposals which seek to retain the credentials.

The Institute has hired a branding expert to assess the brand feasibility of all three credentials, but noted that any large-scale branding would likely cost "tens of millions of dollars" and sought input from members on how to either raise such funds, or succeed without them.

NAC said it is talking to organizations to outsource the PFS and ABV credentials, but could not find any interested in taking on the CITP.

It added that the CITP may be the least likely to emerge as a successful credential. "Even in the absence of stiff competition, perceptions of and among CPAs as to the fit and benefit of the CITP credential are mixed," NAC reported, adding "One may reasonably conclude that Information Technology, and by extension CITP, represents an opportunity that is perhaps beyond the elasticity of the CPA brand."

After the Invitation to Comment period ends at the end of August, the feedback will be analyzed and presented to NAC and the AICPA Board of Directors, along with final recommendations for each credential which will be voted on by Council during its fall 2003 meeting in New Orleans.

AICPA spokesman Joel Allegretti said the Institute could not comment beyond the released report due to confidential agreements with organizations that might want to take over the credentials, but said all points of view will be reviewed before a final recommendation is made . "When we go to Council, we will take everything into consideration," he said. "We're trying to be as transparent as possible."

Click here to download the ABV Invitation to Comment.
Click here to download the CITP Invitation to Comment.

-- Tracey Miller-Segarra

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