Mark Freedman

SOA Survey Finds Opposition to University Accreditation Programs

pe-freedmanDuring the SOA Board of Directors meeting Oct 19-20, 2013, the Board decided to decline the Canadian Institute of Actuaries’ (CIA) request to accept exam credits for SOA credentials.

The decision came after a lengthy exploration and deliberation process. The Board reviewed this issue in detail over a nearly 18 month period. In addition to discussions at Board meetings, the SOA had hosted focus groups in three North American cities, collected nearly 40 comments as feedback through the Speaking of Actuaries blog and conducted an online survey of a random sample of 12,000 members and 8,500 candidates to understand their views of the university accreditation programs. We also solicited the opinions of the SOA Employers Council, which includes representatives of many of the largest employers of actuaries. In addition, the SOA had a task force that met on a number of occasions with leadership of the CIA to discuss the two organizations’ relationship and the CIA’s university accreditation program. CIA leaders were also invited to share their perspective on university accreditation with the SOA Board at the March 2013 SOA Board meeting. In addition to these many discussions, the Board also reviewed information on the UAP program provided by the CIA, reviews conducted by the SOA’s education organization, and an assessment of the alignment between the UAP concept and the SOA’s strategic plan. All these components helped inform the SOA Board of Directors’ final decision.

The SOA values and has deep respect for the CIA as our closest global education partner and understands their strong commitment to the University Accreditation Program. However, we ultimately decided that accepting course work under the UAP for exam credits was not in the best interests of the SOA at this time and was not something our members, candidates, or actuarial employers want the SOA to do. We thank everyone who provided their perspectives throughout the deliberation and decision-making process, including the members and candidates who completed the online survey. The attached summary of the online survey results provides additional information on their views.

Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.

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5 responses to "SOA Survey Finds Opposition to University Accreditation Programs"

  • Tyler says:

    I would have thought SOA members less likely to accept the UAP, but it looks like the survey results show candidates feel more strongly about it. Being a candidate myself, I just thought it would decrease the value of my credentials. I guess I have trouble seeing how even the strongest oversight of the UAP would maintain the integrity of SOA credentials. The degree of subjectivity inherent in a university environment introduces a natural flaw into an otherwise objective and strict process. At the same time, I am one of those who said I was only somewhat familiar with the existing UAP, so I am definitely not seeing this from every angle.

    Thanks for posting the results! Very interesting findings.

  • Ahelan Sathiyaraj says:

    Dear SOA,

    I truly believe this is the correct decision to make. SOA exams are a lot harder than coursework itself and school courses are arbitrary. There are so many variables: schools, Professors, class competition etc.

    There are many students who get A’s in school, but they can’t pass the exams. In school there are ways to increase your mark. Assignments are worth 20 – 40 % of the course grade (one person does it and distributes it to his/her friends) and some students anticipate what will be on the final exam (previous exams, TA’s etc.). The SOA exam process is so stringent and randomized, and there is no way of forecasting the types of questions. ‘Cheating’ in SOA exams is impossible, whereas there are many fishy tactics used in the Universities.

    I don’t think SOA should ever take that route and accept exams as exam credits. VEE credits are enough to attain some coursework credits. Unless SOA implements a curriculum that is uniform throughout all universities, and gets rid of these useless ‘assignments’ that students take advantage of by cheating and replace it with some communication presentation. Assignments can involve people who worked their ass off vs. people who copied but ended getting the same result. A presentation involves no hiding or copying.

    What do you think?


  • Erin says:

    If there’s a chance, I would love to ask CIA a simple question, “How about we cancel SAT/ ACT/GRE, and only look at students’ high school/undergraduate grades?” Here’s a story, one of my intro. to calc students came to me crying, “I got straight A in math in high school, but I’m failing your class. I don’t understand….” Me: ” How did you do on ACT?” Student:” Oh, horrible!” Me: “So…?” Student:”… I got it.”

    Also, from my past experience passing SOA exams I’m confident to say that there should be no pressure if candidates put in genuine efforts in preparing for the exams, because SOA’s very generous on the pass marks. I even think the pass marks for exam p, fm, mfe, and c are way too low than they should be, especially exam p and fm. IMO, the reasonable pass mark for exam p and fm should be 80%. The pass mark for the new MLC is alright considering how tedious calculations involved.

    Good job SOA in providing candidates a FAIR environment and helping employers screen candidates!! Shame on CIA.

    • Lisa says:

      Erin, you ask “How about we cancel SAT/ ACT/GRE, and only look at students’ high school/undergraduate grades?”

      This may come as a surprise to you, but in Canada those standardized tests do not exist. They are US tests only, so Canadian universities are already using students’ high school grades for admission into undergraduate programs. It is only the professional schools (Dental, Medical, Law) that make us of DAT, MCAT and LSAT scores as part of the admission process.

      Despite this “flaw” in the Canadian university/college system, most of the actuarial co-op students I’ve worked with are well educated and capable of mastering the material needed to pass actuarial exams.

      It is unfortunate that most of the opposition to the CIA’s UAP process is based on the mistaken belief that the Canadian university/college system is exactly like the US system.

  • Erin says:

    In today’s world, one serious concern is that many people are pursuing instant success/benefit at the cost of minimum efforts; another serious concern is that the ultimate goal in many areas becomes solely *profit* rather than what’s good for our future. Thinking about how Andrew Wiles being able to conquer the Fermat’s last theorem, it’s his everlasting passion for the problem as well as his willingness to dedicate himself completely to the problem for many years that he comprehended all others’ failed attempts to the problem throughout the history to eventually stand on giants’ shoulder. So, please always remember that Rome was not built in a day. Earning actuarial credentials does not mean a ticket to an actuary job that earns big money. Being an actuary is a serious profession that needs talented and dedicated candidates to work together to contribute and to lead. What do SOA exams require? Basic skills in the field! I didn’t see much twists and turns in SOA exam questions although I do agree that passing these exams does require efforts even for advanced mathematically capable people. During the long journey in the actuarial field, taking the SOA exams is actually just the first and easiest part of *growing in the actuarial field*. The SOA membership pathway not only helps to train candidates but also tells candidates silently that passion, curiosity, commitment, and genuine efforts are musts. Besides passing exams, a successful actuary should also dedicate significant time into reading published papers/books/attending seminars, etc, which would require far bigger motivation, patience, passion, and efforts than passing exams. If someone’s not willing to put in efforts and/or not prepared for the soa exams, how can we count on that person to contribute in the field?

    Some may argue that there are creative actuaries/problem solvers who have trouble passing exams. I would like to say why not just let those people market themselves by their creativity without actuarial credentials?! After all, employers don’t only look at actuarial credentials. We don’t need to “create” a special path such as UAP for those very few individuals at the cost of potentially allowing in flooding number of incompetent “actuaries”. Also, I personally don’t have much hope on UAP because today’s undergraduate/graduate programs in general are watered down due to expansion.

    On the CIA side, CIA shall indicate in their diploma that a candidate earns credentials through the exams process, or through UAP, or partially UAP. Simple substitution is so very dirty.

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