August 19, 2018

Buyer Beware: Not All Online Graduate Accounting Programs Are Created Equal

graduate accounting programs

Some online master’s programs are just as rich and rigorous as their traditional, campus-based counterparts. Some, though, are bare-bones programs that often seem more like an afterthought than a carefully designed learning experience.

> Download the free “Quality Control Audit Worksheet” to compare multiple graduate-school program options

10 tips to help separate the best online graduate accounting programs from the rest

1. Institutional reputation. Simply put, institutional reputation is what other informed people think of the university you’re considering and the degree program specifically. Is the program directly connected to a well-known, world-class institution? Have major companies flagged the university as a top-tier, or preferred, school in their recruiting efforts? Does the university show up in higher education rankings, such as those published by U.S. News & World Report?

2. Accreditation. Colleges and universities are regularly reviewed in a rigorous process called accreditation. While accreditation doesn’t guarantee a school is “the best,” checking for accreditation can help you steer clear of low-quality programs.

3. Recruiting opportunities and career support. Chances are you’re pursuing an online master’s degree to get ahead in your career. A good program will help you take that next step after graduation. This might include résumé advice, coaching on your interviewing skills, connecting you with recruiters, or allowing you to tap into a large, established alumni network.

4. Faculty quality. Do the same faculty who teach in a school’s on-campus format also teach in its online format? If the answer is yes, that means teaching quality online is likely similar to the on-campus program.

5. Curriculum quality and electives. Does the online program offer substantially the same set of classes, including electives, as its on-campus counterpart? If so, that’s a sign that the online format is focused on providing a rigorous curriculum.

6. Student quality. A major part of graduate school is the professional relationships and friendships you form with classmates. By considering admission standards and the profile of a typical online student, you can assess the quality of the other students you’ll be interacting with as well as the alumni group you’ll ultimately join.

7. Live immersion. Although relationships can be formed online, it’s easier and faster to form them offline first. The best online degree programs usually offer an in-person experience where you meet your new classmates.

8. Global immersion. Global business experience is no longer a “nice to have.” International business is a factor at every level of the economy — even local, small businesses. A global immersion provides first-hand exposure to international commerce.

9. Face-to-face live classes. When reviewing online programs, make sure you try the online teaching software, or at least see it in action. There’s a big difference between live classes and recorded lectures. There’s also a big difference between typing messages in chat software and being able to see and hear classmates and instructors speaking live.

10. Production value and technology. Some software’s easy to use, some isn’t. If your school’s online instructional software makes you feel like you need a computer science degree to participate in a class, you should consider other options.

Compare and contrast.

Now that you know what a good online master’s program can deliver – how do the programs you’re considering stack up? Download a free program comparison worksheet to perform a Quality Control Audit of each of the programs you’re considering.

What’s your next career move?
 Consider the #1-ranked online Master of Accounting degree from the University of North Carolina. With flexible schedules, evening courses delivered by world-class faculty, and a career services team dedicated to the needs of working professionals, the program can give your career the boost it needs.

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Give It Up Tax Protesters, You’re Just Screwing Yourselves

Of the adherents of strange and puzzling belief systems – 9/11 Truthers, Fed groupies, Cubs fans – few work so hard to screw themselves as tax protesters.

By their own account,”>spend “thousands of hours” reading their arcane tracts, expanding on theories of why the 16th Amendment is a figment of our imagination, or why a gold-fringed flag means you’re in an admiralty court, which somehow undoes the income tax.

Or why the federal tax law only covers the District of Columbia and federal forts, or why Section 861 says U.S. source income isn’t taxable. The result? They still owe the taxes, penalties, and maybe $25,000 idiot fees from the tax court – and that’s if things go well. If they go badly, they go very badly.

Every year the IRS updates its handy debunking of tax protester arguments. It does little good. You can spend hours trying to talk tax protesters out of their ideas, but they move effortlessly from one gold-fringed bad idea to another, and they can almost sound like they make sense, until you get outside and get some fresh air. But there is one common problem in all of these “Tax Honesty” arguments: they don’t work.

No matter how convinced you are that Irwin Schiff’s theories of the income tax are true, that there is no income tax, all of the federal judges think there is one. So does the IRS, the Federal Marshals Service, and pretty much everyone in the Bureau of Prisons. What they say trumps what Irwin says, which is why the poor man is likely to die in jail.

But what about the glorious courtroom triumphs of Lloyd Long, Vernice Kuglin and Tom Cryer? They were acquitted by juries! Yes, these guys beat criminal charges. Why the juries voted the way they did, we’ll never really know. Maybe they were nullifiers, striking a blow against the income tax. Maybe they decided that the defendants really believed their schtick, so they didn’t “willfully” fail to pay their taxes. But these acquittals debunk the income tax only if the O.J. acquittal debunks California’s murder statute. Even though these guys didn’t go to jail (unlike many, including their pied piper, Irwin Schiff), they still have to pay their taxes.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “Of course he says that. He does taxes for a living. He’s in on the conspiracy!” If so, come on. If this stuff actually worked, I wouldn’t grind my way through every tax season pretending there is an income tax. If it worked, I would just talk to a few of my wealthiest clients, work out a deal to take 5% of their income for the next 10 years in return for making their taxes go away, wave my wand, and spend March in Mesa.

But here I am, grinding out those returns. That no more makes me “pro-tax” than believing in germ theory makes a doctor “pro-bacteria.” Still, if you really want to ruin your financial life, you’re welcome to choose your poison. But first ask yourself: are all of these big companies and rich guys who pay taxes crazy or stupid? Or is it just you?