January 14, 2022

Price Fixing?

Price Fixing?

Sixteen colleges and universities just got sued in federal court for colluding to limit financial aid. They’re being accused of price fixing and unfairly capping aid by sharing a formula for determining aid while simultaneously considering whether candidates are able to pay full admissions freight, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The suit argues that they should have to follow anti-trust law, because a condition of being exempt from the law is that the schools must consider applicants without factoring in their ability to cover the full tuition.

A few years back, we had the college admissions scandal, where more than 30 wealthy and famous parents were accused of paying over $25 million to a scammer, now in prison for fraudulently inflating their children’s entrance exam scores and bribing college officials.

Now we have this. At Marcum, we like to know that we have access to the best and brightest talent, regardless of how wealthy or well-connected their families are. College for many is still a ticket to the American Dream and one of the best investments someone can make, but many young people from modest means and even average, middle-class families already have a disadvantage in applying. That needs to change. Ultimately, the more egalitarian the schools are, the better our pipeline of talent in accounting and frankly, in every industry.

Fortunately, some schools are still making SATs and ACTs optional, given how difficult it has been for many students to get to a testing center during the pandemic. This means schools will continue to see a broader pool of applicants than in the past. And in some fields where we hire talent, like technology, there is a lot of interesting innovation going on in education, through bootcamps and other alternatives to a four-year degree. That area could be very promising in the long run.

For our part, we have started outreaching to future talent long before any student would think of applying. Last year, at our virtual Take Your Children to Work Day in April, we welcomed Dr. Adrian Mayse, CPA, chair of Howard University’s Accounting Department, who read aloud to our “junior associates” from his new children’s book, “When I Grow up, I Want to Be…an Accountant.” It’s a great window into the world of accounting and why it is an exciting career choice. And hopefully, it will inspire students to take a full roster of math classes in high school, so they are well positioned to major in accounting in college, if that’s their cup of tea.

Beyond this, in keeping with our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we are doing all we can to ensure that when our interns come on board, they have an opportunity to work with Marcum professionals from diverse communities. The Marcum Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to accounting majors from underrepresented groups who plan to become CPAs. Recipients of the scholarships will be able to participate in our intern program and other engagement opportunities with Marcum.

Still, we do depend on universities to maintain a fair and equitable admissions system. I hope we’ll see more efforts to open doors for smart and ambitious students from every walk of life. It makes it a lot easier to build the deep bench of talent we need to continue to keep the accounting field moving ahead at a clip.

As of today, we’ve had 425 cases of Covid reported by people working at Marcum since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Of the 425, 113 were reported last month (December ‘21) and 59 have been reported so far this month. That’s over 1/3 of all of our cases in just the last 45 days or so. And it gets worse. The overwhelming majority of the cases, 157 of the 172, or 91%, have been reported by fully vaccinated or boosted Marcumites.

If that’s not evidence that Delta and Omicron have kicked our collective butts I don’t know what is. The good news, if there is any, is that several reports this week have shown preliminary statistics that indicate that we may have plateaued in many areas and we may in fact be on the back end of this most recent surge.