WASHINGTON -- As it aims to enhance the profile of the planning industry, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards is seeking to deepen its collaboration with higher-education institutions that grant degrees and certificates in the field.

That effort includes plans for a new, broadly accessible online course that the board is developing in partnership with the University of Illinois. The so-called massive open online course, which could potentially offer instruction to thousands of students, is slated to launch in 2014, with a split focus on personal finance and an introduction to the CFP profession as a career path.

To date, the CFP Board has recognized 343 programs, with another 51 currently in development. Of the active programs, 177 grant certificates to students, 112 confer undergraduate degrees, and 54 are graduate-level offerings, including five doctoral programs.

"We're seeing significant growth and we're still seeing significant diversity in our programs," says Charles Chaffin, the CFP Board's director of academic programs and initiatives, noting that the increased interest in CFP education within the academic community comes as the board has "increased our rigor" in evaluating and registering new programs.


Of particular interest to the board is tracking the educational and professional paths of students who pass through CFP certified programs.

At a CFP Board gathering of educators last week, Chaffin described a new student completion initiative that in 2014 will begin producing annual reports identifying how individuals from each CFP program fared: Who graduated or completed the certification process, how many sat for the CFP exam and whether they passed or failed, and how many became certified but allowed their credential to lapse.

"Obviously when we're talking about data, we also need to talk about how we're going to collaborate to improve that," Chaffin says. "We really want to collaborate relative to helping students go through this certification process."

Chaffin acknowledges the burden that the board's requirements can impose on colleges and universities, and says the board has shifted from an annual renewal process to a biennial one. But with that transition, program directors are now expected to take a hard look at their courses at each renewal -- and, in collaboration with the CFP Board, make adjustments to improve them and better prepare students for a career in financial planning.

"With an annual renewal I don't think it would really be fair to ask for that reflective process," Chaffin said. "Now that we've gotten out of that annual process we really need to be reflective and we need to take a step back and bring all of our stakeholders into our institutions and our programs and really talk about things that we can do to get better."

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