Editing note: In February 2020 the state Board notified me by email that they completed an audit of my CPE program records for the period of July 2017 through June 2019 and found no deficiencies.
Most Certified Public Accountants, like me, take continuing professional education (CPE) courses from a variety of sources on a range of topics of business interest or specialization over time in the normal course of business. I subscribe to several “package” providers of online CPE courses and attend some live programs. The total requirement is 80 CPE hours but that must be broken into several categories with minimum requirements in each category. The state also requires varied forms of education; in other words it can’t be 100% online webinar. It’s complicated enough that we need to use a spreadsheet to keep track of the progress in meeting all the requirements.
As part of this process I must take a 4 hour CPE course focused on state-specific professional ethics regulation. The course focuses specifically on Delaware law. My past experience is that that the available courses vary substantially. In addition, my experience is that a 4 hour CPE course actually takes me more than 8 hours to complete partly due to my lack of access to high speed internet in rural locations. So it makes sense to choose carefully.
Thisweek I am a little annoyed over this process for two reasons:
- First, the providers I am already paying for “unlimited CPE” do not offer the required Delaware ethics course. So this makes me wonder if I am wasting money or possibly not making the best choice in online CPE providers.
- Second, a course advertised online by Udemy as meeting this requirement apparently does not and the provider is not a state-approved provider of this course. (I did not discover this until after paying for and completing the course).
This caused me to pause to take a closer look at the topic before I invest more time and money
The state of Delaware Division of Professional Regulation Board of Accountancy web page lists 15 approved providers of the state-required ethics course:
- Accountants Education Group, 12221 Merit Drive Suite 940 Dallas TX 75251 (800) 627-7310 www.accountantsed.com, http://www.accountantsed.com/orstore/showitem.aspx?txtsearch=@DOWNETHICS&productID=PDFEDE, $60
- American CPE, Inc. ,Attention: Dennis Gatlin 826 Riviera Drive Mansfield TX 76063 (817) 477-0222 www.americancpe.com, https://www.americancpe.com/CPE-Courses/Ethics-for-Delaware.html, $59
- Becker Professional Education, 3005 Highland Parkway Downers Grove IL 60515 (630) 353-3739 www.becker.com, Could not find the DE course online, difficult search tool
- Beacon Hill Financial Educators, 51A Middle Street Newburyport MA 01950 (800) 588-7039 www.bhfe.com, https://www.bhfe.com/search.cfm $35. This course was temporarily removed in June 2019 but expected to be available again soon.
- Continuing Academics CPE Tutor, 12221 Merit Drive Ste. 940 Dallas TX 75251 (800) 843-5512 http://www.cafacpe.com, http://www.cafacpe.com/showitem.aspx?txtsearch=delaware&productID=PDFDEE $65
- CPASelfstudy.com, Attention: Patricia MCarthy 1715 Continental Drive Zionsville IN 46077 (317) 507-6834 www.cpaselfstudy.com, https://www.cpaselfstudy.com/products/de-ethics-delaware-cpas/ $39
- CPE247.com, 1329 Hwy. 395 Suite 10-254 Gardnerville NV 89410 (800) 977-8641 www.cpe247.com, http://www.cpe247.com/index.php?route=product/product&keyword=delaware&category_id=0&product_id=502 $39
- CPE Depot, P.O. Box 2602 Granite Bay CA 95746 (916) 634-0255 www.cpedepot.com, , https://www.cpedepot.com/Applet/Course/BrowseCourse2.aspx?SiteCourseId=7632&CourseScheduleId= $49
- Delaware Society of CPAs, Attn: Dana Rubenstein 3512 Silverside Road- 8 The Commons Wilmington DE 19810 (302) 478-7442 www.dscpa.org, https://www.dscpa.org/learning/1925317/surgents-delaware-ethics-for-cpas-etde $189
- FurtherEd, Inc Attention: Meredith Cohen 61 Broadway, Suite 1105 New York NY 10006 646-448-3279 https://cpe.furthered.com/, https://cpe.furthered.com/course/ethics-for-delaware-2017-text-based $40
- Professional Education Services, LP, Attention: Kathy Yates 4208 Douglas Blvd., Suite 50 Granite Bay, CA 95746 (800) 990-2731 ext.10 www.mypescpe.com, https://www.mypescpe.com/open/cpe/Ethics-and-Professional-Conduct-for-Delaware-CPAs.cmc?&view=11G $54.40
- Sequoia CPE, 406 9th Ave. Ste. 206 San Diego CA 92101 (800) 572-9675 www.sequoiacpe.com, https://www.sequoiacpe.com/description?cn=9070&d=ethics $64.50
- SmartPros, 12 Skyline Drive Hawthorne NY 92101 (914) 345-2620 www.smartpros.com, https://ecampus.smartpros.com/modules/Catalog/CourseDetails.aspx?ProductGroupID=20124&EnrollmentID=0 $99.80
- Surgent CPE 237, Lancaster Avenue Devon PA 19333 (800) 778-7436 www.SurgentCPE.com, https://www.surgentcpe.com/cpe-courses/delaware-ethics-for-cpas $65, $799 for unlimited
- Wolters Kluwer, CCH 4025 W. Peterson Avenue Chicago IL 60646 (773) 866-3491 www.CCHGroup.com, Link is bad, course not found online
I was able to verify that 12 of the providers offer the course online right now.
Some of the courses are text-based (usually a downloadable PDF) and others are video-based. Different people learn best using different methods. Internet speed comes into plan when I’m working in a remote location without high sped internet access so in this case a PDF textbook might be best.
Otherwise, this is likely a classic commodity product market; meaning that there is little reason fro brand loyalty, and with all other things equal and with zero market friction, buyers should gravitate toward the lowest priced product. The price of the course ranges from $35 to $189. The median price is about $60. My early supposition that this is a price-fixed market (that makes sense for a commodity) turns out to be wrong.
I found that several companies offer unlimited CPEs for a surprisingly low price and I like to take advantage of that type of offer. Sequoia is $149, for example, for unlimited CPE.
I’ve met a few owners of these companies over the years. One is in my home neighborhood. Another always answers the phone himself if a user calls. All that I’ve met are good solid business people.
None of the course providers immediately stood out as exceptional as to motivate a decision to use them but I would welcome comment from peers on this decision.