Montana State University accounting students rank sixth in the nation for the first-time pass rate of candidates with advanced degrees on the May 2003 Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.

It is the 17th time in the past 21 years that MSU accounting students have ranked in the top 10 in the country of candidates who have taken the rigorous CPA exam. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy tracks and publishes various statistics on candidates success in passing the CPA exam, and the MSU College of Business learned about the top-ten ranking this week. The 2003 rankings are the most recent results published by the organization.

"This is a tremendous legacy for the MSU accounting faculty and students," said Rich Semenik, dean of the College of Business. "This ranks MSU in the highest levels with the most prestigious schools in the country and is a great honor."

MSU College of Business students finished with a 68.8 percent first-time pass rate on all four sections of the exam for candidates with advanced degrees. MSU was ranked behind the University of South Florida, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Iowa, Wake Forest University and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Rounding out the top 10 behind MSU were the University of Florida, the University of Houston and a two-way tie with Northern Illinois University and the University of Montana.

Approximately 15% of all candidates in the country pass the CPA exam on their first attempt. MSU finished in the number one position last year with an 85.2 percentage first-time pass rate, the highest pass rate in the college's history, although MSU accounting students have ranked number one in the country in 1983, 1991, 1995, 1996, and 2002.

MSU accounting students ranked second in the nation in the financial accounting and reporting/business enterprise section of the test with a 93.8 percent pass rate, third in the auditing section with a 93.8 percent pass rate and fourth in the accounting and reporting section with an 87.5 percent pass rate. Seventy-five percent of the MSU candidates passed the business law and professional responsibilities section of the exam.

In addition, Carlen Martinells, a 2003 MSU College of Business graduate with a master's degree in professional accountancy, received the Montana Society of CPAs George D. Anderson Gold Medal Award for a Montana university or college student with the highest overall score on the May 2003 CPA exam. Martinell is an accountant with the public accounting firm of Hamilton Misfeldt & Company in Great Falls.

"We are very fortunate to have such a terrific group of dedicated students each year," said Bonita Peterson, MSU accounting professor. "I think I speak for all the accounting faculty when I say that we are thrilled over the students' success at achieving this milestone in their career. We congratulate each and every one of them! "

Peterson said the NASBA rankings for the Class of 2004 won t be known for another year.