Forensic accounting, the dismal science of digging through old financials in search of wrongdoing, is one of the fastest-growing areas of study at the nation's colleges and business schools. The number of schools offering forensic courses has increased from fewer than 30 in 2003 to nearly 200 today, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Dick Riley, an accounting professor at West Virginia University, is pleased that there's more interest in the field post-Enron. More than 200 people have completed WVU's summer program since 2003, he says. Many students are intrigued by the chance to investigate fraud, but others enroll because they want to bring better internal controls back to their employers. Entrepreneurs can take a class themselves or send an employee, Riley notes, so that even a small business can begin to think about accounting issues in a more sophisticated way.
Not everyone is thrilled with the trend, however. "This is all about what happened yesterday," says Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "Educated people contribute by looking to the future."