Irvine Valley College’s GAP4+1 Accounting Program Guarantees Success Programs

August 31, 2020
Two Irvine Valley College GAP4+1 Accounting students

If you’re looking for a field where business is booming, look no further than accounting. According to the 2019 Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research Orange County Sector Analysis Report, Orange County has an average 2,383 job openings for bookkeepers, accountants, and auditing clerks every year.

To help meet this demand, Irvine Valley College’s unique Guaranteed Accounting Program (GAP4+1) is not only turning out career-ready community college graduates but also giving them a guaranteed pathway to a four-year degree and even a MS from California State University, Fullerton, all in just 5 years.

“This program is, in my view, the most cost-effective, professionally-driven, educational program in the region,” says April Morris, a full-time lecturer at CSUF and IVC’s GAP4+1 program director. “It gives students the education and career opportunities they need to be successful in the world of accounting and business without a bunch of debt.”

Launched in 2016, the program is the brainchild of Dr. Morteza Rahmatian, current dean of CSUF’s College of Business and Economics who was looking for a way to increase graduation success at CSUF while also addressing an industry desire to access better qualified students earlier in their educations.

After finishing their first two years at IVC and earning an associate degree in accounting, students spend the next two years at CSUF, both at the Fullerton Campus and the Irvine Center, and are guaranteed a seat in all required courses on their way to completing a Bachelor of Arts in business administration with a concentration in accounting. In their fifth year, they complete a Master of Science in one of three concentrations: accountancy, accountancy and analytics or taxation. Completion of the program not only gives students the 150 hours of college credit required to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) but also saves them time and money by reducing their time to completion from the average 6.5 years to just five.

“Entering the GAP4+1 program was the best decision I could have made for my education and future,” says Alexis Rock who is entering her senior year at CSUF. “The GAP program provides students with so many opportunities and so much support. It is because of the GAP program that I am going to graduate in Spring 2021 with my bachelor’s and go straight into a one-year master’s program. It is also because of the GAP program that I was able to start networking with firms right away.”

This overall sense of preparedness is shared by many students, including Gabriel Vivanco who is currently a junior at CSUF and has already received a full time offer from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“I liked how the program started us off early,” says Vivanco. “As a new freshman in college, the GAP program already had me attending professional networking  events and building my soft skills. By the time I had transferred to CSUF, I felt like I had an edge over a lot of people at my grade level.”

The opportunity to network with both international and regional firms and gain early access to internships is one of the many benefits of this cohort-based program. Immediately upon graduating high school, GAP4+1 students take two summer courses that introduce them to college expectations and give them the communication skills necessary to present themselves professionally to recruiters.

“Our program continues to evolve based on the needs of students,” says Morris who was brought on as program director six months after the program was launched. “Those new student summer classes were a response to the fact that we wanted our students to be ready to start acting like professionals from day 1 so they could take advantage of the semi-annual ‘Meet the Firms’ networking event.”

Every year, the fall “Meet the Firms” draws upwards of 700 attendees from CSUF for an evening of networking between students and regional and international accounting firms and businesses. While it will be held virtually this year because of COVID-19 pandemic, Morris still expects GAP4+1 students to find the same exceptional opportunities it has always provided.

“Meet the Firms is a special event for the GAP4+1 program because ordinarily, students from community colleges are not invited to attend university networking events until they transfer,” says Rock who had a chance to intern at Ernst & Young this summer and has already been invited to intern again next summer.

“This gives GAP students two more years of networking opportunities compared to typical transfer students,” continues Rock. “As a freshman at IVC, I was able to network with the top accounting firms and participate in their freshman programs. Because of these early networking opportunities, I was able to get to take my time getting to know the firms which helped me decide what direction I want to take with my career after college.”  

Now that the program is a few years old, Morris is especially excited to see GAP4+1 students who were once attending Meet the Firms to be recruited, serving as campus representatives for the firms that hired them.

“In the beginning, I would take students and personally introduce them to firms because people weren’t familiar with the GAP4+1 program,” recalls Morris. “But now, not only do people know the program, our graduates are on the firm side. The best part is the GAP4 students are on the lookout for GAP4 students like themselves. It’s been great to see it come full circle.”

Also unique to IVC are the many certifications students earn along the way to completing their Associate in Science in Accounting, further helping them show off their knowledge and build their resumes with skills-focused achievements.

“We’ve structured the curriculum at IVC to not only meet the transfer requirements for Cal State Fullerton and other institutions, but also to specifically address the needs of the business world,” says Morris.

As the world of accounting has increasingly moved towards the use of technology for the purposes of data analytics, so has IVC’s program evolved.

“I was talking to an east coast CFO the other day,” recalls Morris. “He’s hiring 90 people but he said if they don’t have the technology skills, he just throws out the resume. Just goes to show you how things are changing. But also how important is to have these kinds of skills on your resume. That’s the whole point of our certificates.”

Certificates of Proficiency can be earned in computerized accounting, financial accounting, financial/managerial accounting, income tax, and payroll. Advanced Microsoft Excel skills, which are in high-demand amongst employers, figure prominently and not only prepare students for advanced coursework at CSUF but also for their internships and the world of work. 

“The certificates we earn at IVC were definitely helpful,” says Rock. “We are encouraged to include them on our resumes to showcase our technical skills. I think the most valuable certificate I obtained was in Spreadsheets (Excel). I was able to use the skills I learned during my internship this past summer! Having trained in technical aspects and then receiving a certificate for all your hard work really builds your confidence in your abilities.”

Morris feels fortunate that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on IVC’s GAP4+1 program has been limited and even provided opportunities for students to expand technology skills that already in high demand. She is especially proud of the way the program’s early cohorts have come full circle from being students looking for internships, to know helping the companies they work for look for interns like themselves.

“I like circles,” she says. “They have momentum.”

To say the least, so do IVC’s GAP4+1 students—they’re not just going places, they’re going anywhere they want to go.

Follow these links to learn more about IVC’s Accounting program or what other career education options and opportunities are available to help you build the career you’ve always dreamed of.