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IU Northwest's Actuarial Science program singled out for quality, affordability


Program prepares students for all preliminary exams and provides VEE credits

Monday Jun 20, 2016


Indiana University Northwest made a Top 40 List of Actuarial Science programs in the U.S. recently, taking the Number 28 spot in a ranking by Online Accounting Degree Programs. IU Northwest’s spot on the list puts it in close company with other top-ranked programs, including the University of California at Santa Barbara and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which took the list’s one and two spots.

The online resource, which defines its mission as “helping prospective graduate students make informed decisions about what kind of degree to pursue and where to study” specifically in the field of accounting, examined all of the Bachelor of Actuarial Science programs in the U.S. and then ranked them based on graduation rate, quality of curriculum, student appeal, net price, and having been named a “Center for Actuarial Excellence.”

The most significant selling point, which makes IU Northwest stand out above the rest of the nearby colleges on the list, was its affordable tuition, which the article reported as $7,563 per year.

As the ranking by Online Accounting Degree Programs says in its report, “despite its affordability, the program includes a full 105 credits of coursework in math, economics, business, and computer science. In fact, IU is one of the only schools in the region with an actuarial program that covers all of the preliminary exams and provides VEE (Validation by Educational Experience) credits, so Hoosiers hoping to stay local should look closely at IU Northwest. There’s even an optional seminar course designed to teach students the problem-solving skills they’ll need to do well on actuarial exams.”

An actuary is a professional who applies mathematics and statistical methods to assess risk. They most often work in the finance and insurance industries, determining risk-to-reward scenarios to help companies make financial decisions.

Successful actuaries obtain a series of certifications as they pass a sequence of difficult exams, thus making themselves increasingly more qualified, and marketable. Associateship and fellowship are two levels of actuary qualification.

Just last year, IU Northwest Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Actuarial Science Michelle (Yuanying) Guan obtained her associateship status from the Society of Actuaries (ASA). In doing so, she also secured a $5,000 grant to help develop the University’s actuarial program. The grant provides financial support for the promotion and development of education and research programs in actuarial science, including actuarial exam reimbursements and undergraduate research opportunities for students.

Earning an associateship is not an easy process. Guan said she pursued the designation for about 10 years. She will continue to work towards the next level of fellowship, which will earn another grant for the University.

Guan said there are approximately 100 universities in the U.S. with certified actuarial science programs but not all of them have certified actuaries on their faculties. Even the best developed schools have only a handful of faculty members with this designation.

Alex (Xiaofeng) Wang, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Actuarial Science, was an actuary at Allianz Life insurance company before he joined IU Northwest. He brings in-depth understanding of applications of actuarial science to help students both in academics and in pursuing a professional career. Wang is one exam away from obtaining the ASA designation.

Guan said that IU Northwest’s Actuarial Science program is one of only a few programs in Northwest Indiana and Chicago area that offer courses for all preliminary actuarial exams and Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) credits.

In the spring of 2016, the program launched an Actuarial Club which presented an opportunity for students to learn about opportunities provided by the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). The program was also selected by Society of Actuaries (SOA) as one of 15 schools worldwide to launch its new pilot program. With these new resources, the program is now offering most current information from both credentialing societies and case study experiences supervised by experienced actuaries in the industry.              

The eventual goal of developing the IU Northwest actuarial program is to make it become SOA Center of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) in the future. This will be accomplished, Guan says, as more faculty members earn this prestigious designation.

The job outlook for this profession, which typically only requires a bachelor’s degree, is favorable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median pay of an actuary as $93,680 in 2012 and projects the profession to grow 26 percent between 2012 and 2022.

With Internet and new technologies, actuaries are needed to develop, price and evaluate a variety of new insurance products and calculate costs of new risks.

For more information about the actuarial science degree program at IU Northwest, visit iun.edu or call (219) 980-6980.

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