The academic side of planning has certainly come a long way. In December 1969, when a group of 13 financial services professionals met at an airport hotel in Chicago and decided to launch a membership organization and an institution for advisors - the College for Financial Planning, originator of the CFP designation - there were no schools. Today, there are 333 CFP board-registered programs, from certificate programs (183) to undergraduate (103), master's (41) and Ph.D. programs (6).
It was a slow process. A curriculum and an exam had to be established. A code of ethics had to be developed, along with an independent organization to enforce it. Certification had to be separated from education, which happened in 1985 when the College for Financial Planning turned the CFP designation over to the CFP Board of Standards. The board - then known as the International Board of Standards and Practices for Certified Financial Planners - was empowered to grant and to revoke the right of financial planners to use the designation. By 1987, at least 20 schools had registered programs with the independent credentialing organization.
As many of the current crop of planners near retirement, they don't have to look too far to figure out where the next generation will come from. The answer is in all the schools. Not only has the number of programs been on the rise - up 15% since the past year and a half, according to the CFP Board - but enrollment in the programs themselves has generally been increasing, too. There are no national enrollment statistics, but many of the 10 schools profiled in this issue said enrollment has been rising, as much as 108% in the past five years, even at some older, established programs.
With so many CFP Board-registered programs out there, Financial Planning focused on 10 worthy institutions. We talked to veteran planners and industry leaders to get a sense of which 10 programs belonged in an overview. Our list is not a ranking. (We also inevitably left out many high-profile schools, including the American College, which has been educating financial services professionals for more than 80 years.)
We've included statistics on enrollment and information (when schools agreed to share it) on the number of students at each school who sat for the CFP exam so far this year, as well as the pass rate of those students. The CFP Board tracks the national overall pass rate for each exam: for the July exam, it was 52%, and March was 60%. Pass rates for individual schools are self-reported numbers, based on a small sample of two exams so far this year.
Like this survey itself, the information we've gathered is just a starting point. Think of it as Financial Planning Education 101, an introduction.
The College For Financial Planning
Location: Greenwood Village, Colo.
CFP Board-registered programs: 2 - online certificate program and online graduate program for Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning
Enrollment: 5,071 in CFP certificate program; 469 in M.S. planning program
Students who sat for CFP exams so far in 2011: 969
Pass rate of those students: 75%
Faculty: 43 (11 full-time and 32 adjunct)
Tuition: CFP certification program $3,885, including materials and fees
M.S. program: $7,140
Web address: cffpinfo.com
The College for Financial Planning, founded in 1972, is where CFP education was born - in fact, in the early years, the college owned the designation. When founders Lew Kearns and James R. Johnston started the school, there were no other educational programs devoted exclusively to financial planning, there were no textbooks and there was no established curriculum or certifying exam.
Instead, there was a small group of advisors who wanted financial planning to develop into a recognized, independent profession. It wasn't going to happen, they realized, unless that profession had academic support and established credentials.
Set up in the beginning for distance learning (correspondence courses, in the pre-Internet years), the college now offers instructor-led online programs for many designations beyond the CFP, including in the areas of asset management and retirement planning. There are graduate programs, including master of science degrees in personal financial planning, finance and financial analysis. Through 2011, the school has had more than 100,000 graduates.