Actuarial science program ranked in two nationwide best-values lists

BOONE—Appalachian State University’s actuarial science program was recently identified by Online Accounting Degrees as one of the “Top 40 Values in Bachelor of Actuarial Science Degree Programs for 2016.” In addition, the program was listed in the “30 Best Value Actuarial Science Programs 2016” ranking by College Values Online.

The undergraduate degree is a cross-disciplinary program housed within Appalachian’s Department of Mathematical Sciences and directed by Dr. Kevin L. Shirley. It is offered on campus and enrolls about 45-50 students. An actuary is a professional who uses mathematical models to assess risk and provide methods to either value or mitigate risk.

Online Accounting Degrees examined all bachelor’s degree programs in actuarial science in the United States, regardless of delivery method, and ranked them based on five key metrics: graduation rate, quality of curriculum, inclusion on the Society of Actuaries’ University and Colleges with Actuarial Programs (UCAP) list, student appeal and net price. Appalachian’s actuarial science program made No. 31 on the list, in large part for its senior-level seminar in which students build and use actuarial models in real-world applications. The course is taught by a professional actuary.

In its statement on Appalachian’s ranking, Online Accounting Degrees pointed out that the senior seminar gives students “the opportunity to practice communicating with stakeholders – a crucial skill that is not easy to teach.” The statement further added, “…it’s extremely affordable actuarial science program is quite small, providing its students with the personal advantages of a close-knit major and the resources of a big school.”

About the seminar, Shirley said, “As seniors, our students learn how to construct actuarial models for real products such as warranties and critical illness insurance to get some real-world experience. We invite actuaries working in North Carolina to come and speak to them as well as interview them for internships.”

In the College Values Online list, Appalachian’s actuarial science program ranked No. 26. According to the organization’s website, those making the list were selected from more than 70 schools listed as offering an actuary degree in the College Navigator database, which is operated by the National Center for Education Statistics.

College Values Online noted Appalachian’s actuarial science program for preparing students to take the Society of Actuaries (SOA) exams and delivering coursework that satisfies the Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements for corporate finance, applied statistics and economics.

While most actuaries are hired by insurance companies, financial institutions and government agencies, Shirley said because Appalachian’s program is interdisciplinary students have to have a broad range of interests both in risk management, general business, mathematics and statistics. “The curriculum is, I would say, pretty full,” he said.

What further sets Appalachian’s program apart, Shirley said, is the quality of faculty in risk management and insurance, statistics and mathematics who teach the major’s required courses. “Having an academic actuary who has industry experience also adds something different to our program. I bring my experience as a life-pricing actuary for TransAmerica to the classroom in the senior seminar,” he said.

Published: Aug 26, 2016 10:11am