CFP Board extends reach with massive online course

The organization behind the Certified Financial Planner credential is teaming with a university to offer the course in 2014

Aug 14, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

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A new online course being developed by the organization that grants the certified financial planner credential could expose tens of thousands of students to the field and possibly ignite their interest in the profession.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. has entered into a verbal agreement with the University of Illinois to offer what is called a massive online open course in financial planning and financial literacy in 2014.

Such online courses, which increasingly are being offered by colleges and universities, have drawn anywhere from thousands to more than 100,000 students, depending on the discipline being studied.

Charles Chaffin, director of academic programs and initiatives at the CFP Board, hopes that the new course can produce similar numbers.

“We're excited about the possibilities,” Mr. Chaffin said. “It has great, great potential for both of our organizations. This MOOC can open a lot of people's eyes into what a CFP planner does and bring them into this profession.”

The online courses typically are open to the public and not limited to students in the sponsoring institution.

The CFP Board grants the certified financial planner designation and administers its educational and ethical requirements. Nationally, there are 343 CFP-registered programs at 213 educational institutions, including 112 at the bachelor's level, 49 graduate, 5 doctorate and 177 certificate programs. There are 51 programs in development.

The initiative does not signal that the CFP Board favors online offerings.

“We are agnostic when it comes to the delivery method of our institutions,” Mr. Chaffin said. “We want our partners to make the determination of what's best for them.”

What the CFP Board is asking of its educational teammates is that they encourage students who complete degrees that include a financial planning component to sit for the rigorous CFP exam.

Last week at an educational conference in Washington, the CFP Board released a study showing that most students avoid the exam. In a survey of 506 students who earned bachelor's or master's degrees at three state universities over a five-year period, 351 did not take the certification test.

To see if there is a broader problem, the CFP Board is collecting more data about students' follow-through in obtaining the CFP mark.

“We need to work with our partners to improve those numbers,” Mr. Chaffin said.

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