First chapter for new masters

If approved, this would be the only Masters in Financial Analysis in Virginia.

The robots are taking over — a science fiction plot line and part of the reason for the introduction of a new Masters program at CNU. Introducing the program as a proposal in the Executive Board of Visitors meeting on Oct. 10, Dean George Ebbs, Dr. Ronnie Cohen and Professor Gabrielle Lingenfelter based the new Masters of Financial Analysis program on changes to the professional field. These changes are industry emphasis on certifications, increasing need for knowledge of data analytics and cybersecurity and, yes, having lower level functions replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

“They’re already starting to disappear,” Cohen stated on the jobs that graduates of the business school would get in years past. “Entry-level jobs have vanished.”

Due to lower level accounting functions being replaced by Artificial Intelligence, students are now having to start at a higher level. Many go on to further educate themselves by receiving Masters degrees in the area from universities like William and Mary. Cohen sees that students want to receive this type of education here at CNU, stating that there is high demand across accounting and finance majors. 

“I wish it was offered when I was a student,” said alumni Justin Helou.

The industry is also focusing more on certification, which furthers the need for a Masters education, as these certifications require 150 credit hours. Not only public accountant certification, employers are looking for certified financial planners, and certified financial analysts. 

More than this, employers are looking for more than just an understanding of the numbers. “The types of qualities that employers are going to be looking for are going to be more about critical thinking, problem solving, relation building, in addition to actual financial analysis,” Cohen explained.

Ebbs, Cohen and Lingenfelter took this into account when planning the program. “We tried to build a program around those specific needs,” Cohen stated. They were also careful to actually talk with employers, enlisting their help in planning the curriculum, so CNU students may be the most prepared to enter the job market.  

As this is a very fast moving job market, with Ebbs stating that it changes in the “short pace of every two to three years,” they have also enlisted professional support from companies in the area. “The field is changing so fast I expect the need for industry involvement,” Ebbs explained. 

Ebbs, Cohen and Lingenfelter were also excited about the part-time nature of the program, as it will allow students to enter their job market and build up their resume. The electives offered in the program were also of interest. The program will offer classes in cybersecurity and emerging assurance technologies; both classes showcasing the changes to the field that Ebbs and Cohen had mentioned.

The program will be of comparable price to other Masters programs in the area. The program is proposed to be offered at $750 a credit hour, putting CNU in the middle of the pack price wise. On the higher side, the University of Virginia prices their programs at $1,147 per credit hour, William and Mary at $1,133 and George Mason at $1000. On the lower end, James Madison prices their credit hours at $485, VCU at $510, Old Dominion at $523 and Virginia Tech at $739.

The program also does not require an increase of infrastructure, as it will exist as an extension the Luter Business School, using the space, library and technology already available. It will also use private fundraising to support two senior professorships. The program will also be self supporting in its fourth year at the $750 price.

It will also be the first of its kind in Virginia, filling a need. The closest program of a similar nature is found at Rutgers, the other, in California.

President Paul Trible highly approved of the program, stating that “it’s an exciting program.”

“This will make CNU’s Luter School of Business an attractive competitor to other schools in Virginia with graduate degrees in the field of Business. It will also give current undergraduate students the option to continue their studies at CNU while pursuing one of the increasing number of graduate degrees offered by the University,” John West, Vice President of Finance for Alpha Kappa Psi, said.

Approved by the Executive Board of Visitors, the proposal will make its way to the State Council of Higher Education for approval from the state of Virginia. Ebbs, Cohen and Lingenfelter are hopeful that it will be approved for the Fall of 2019.  


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