DePaul University's nationally recognized Master of Science in Taxation program has expanded to include an online degree, creating a new option for students seeking flexibility while obtaining a top-ranked graduate degree.
The online MST — which began in fall 2014 — grew out of a smaller online program DePaul has been offering since 2005 to employees of McGladrey, a national tax firm. In that partnership, classes are taught and broadcast from DePaul's Loop Campus and students can either come to class or log on remotely to view the lectures.
"We wanted to take the MST online because we've had a lot of success with the current online program that we run with McGladrey," says Kevin Stevens (MST '86), director of the School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems. "That experience has shown us the value of an online tax degree."
The program's current design grew from insights DePaul gained through partnering with McGladrey. The McGladrey MST format used to be synchronous, meaning it was designed so all students were watching together at the same time, no matter where they were located. Now, lectures are prerecorded. "As time goes on and as technology and platforms change, we're continuing to upgrade the program," says Diane Kuhlmann, assistant director of DePaul's MST program.
Designed to be Flexible
The online MST degree also is offered on an asynchronous platform, meaning working professionals enrolled in the program do not have to be online at a specific time. They can watch prerecorded lectures and keep up with weekly content at their own pace. The class also includes a weekly live webcast in which students can interact with the instructor in real time and ask questions. Even exams are facilitated online.
"Tax courses are very detailed classes. Sitting through a three-hour class in the MST program is difficult after working all day — it makes it harder to absorb all of the material. What you can do online is watch chunks of it and go at your pace," Stevens says.
While the online MST has a different delivery than on-campus classes, Stevens notes that it is not a separate degree in terms of quality. "We don’t have an online tax program and a different face-to-face program. They're the same program, they have the same learning outcomes and they meet the same accreditation guidelines," Stevens says.
An online degree has benefits for different types of students. For some in the Chicagoland area, the new option allows them to avoid a commute from the suburbs into the city after work to attend evening classes at DePaul. For others, the degree brings DePaul's MST from Chicago to screens nationwide. "In many parts of the United States, you can't get a face-to-face Master's in Tax program," Stevens explains. "There are a lot of people in smaller offices who want the expertise from the MST but just don't have an in-person opportunity."
Recognized for Excellence
DePaul's MS in Taxation degree is often recognized for its excellence in national rankings. In 2014, the program was ranked No. 2 in the country in an annual survey of U.S. corporate tax hiring authorities conducted by TaxTalent.com.
Stevens says the faculty help set DePaul apart. "The people who teach our MST program are partners and managers at the large accounting firms in the industry. They are highly, highly skilled. You have to be in a big city to have a cadre of faculty with that much expertise," he adds.
While the recent TaxTalent rankings reflect programs in place in 2013 — before the online MST launched — DePaul's newer offering shows how the business school is continuing to innovate. "We're giving students the education they want when they want it and with more flexibility," explains Professor Ron Marcuson, director of the MST program.
Having more ways to earn an MST benefits students because an advanced degree is so helpful in the tax field. "The MST brings the knowledge you need in order to function as a tax professional," Kuhlmann says. "It takes a lot longer to get this knowledge if you're just getting it doing client work. You've got to have both — you need that real-world experience as well as this knowledge."
Learn more about DePaul's MS in Taxation online degree.