New SOA University Programs to Benefit Students

The SOA looks for opportunities to support the next generation Gena Long and Tiffany Tatsumi

Mentoring Opportunities

A 2015 survey of university faculty concluded that creating and building industry partnerships is a key challenge for actuarial programs. To help fill this gap, the SOA wanted to provide a way for university students to have direct access to actuaries, so it created the University Support Actuary program in 2017. The program links credentialed actuaries with local university actuarial programs to assist in advising students about the profession. It is anticipated that the program will eventually be available to all interested UCAP-AC and UCAP-IC universities.

Each volunteer actuary first participates in a training call with SOA staff and is provided with a toolkit designed to support a university connection. The newly trained volunteers are then asked to reach out to their assigned school to discuss any needs of the program and determine how best to provide support. As a point of first contact with students, a volunteer will typically arrange to make an SOA-prepared presentation to students on the actuarial profession and the SOA’s educational pathways. Depending on the needs of the program and the volunteer’s experience level, the volunteer may also assist with reviewing the program’s courses and activities and providing suggestions, helping to arrange for speakers, providing insights on employer needs and mentoring students with regard to internship and employment questions.

University Recognition Tiers

The three university recognition tiers and their eligibility requirements are:

  • Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE). CAE have attained the highest level of recognition the SOA offers universities. They must maintain eight specific requirements related to degree, curriculum, graduate count, faculty composition, graduate quality, appropriate academic integration, connection to industry and research/scholarship.
  • UCAP–Advanced Curriculum
    Universities must maintain course coverage for at least four SOA preliminary exams with one of those being Exam MLC or Exam C, and approved courses for all Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) topic areas. Effective July 1, 2018, the exams covered must include the Long-term Actuarial Mathematics Exam or the Short-term Actuarial Mathematics Exam.
  • UCAP–Introductory Curriculum (UCAP-IC). Universities must maintain course coverage for at least two SOA preliminary exams and have approved courses for at least one VEE topic area.

Universities were notified of their recognition status and the new reimbursement programs available for their students in mid-2017. The programs allow universities to apply for the specific SOA programs that suit their needs for a given year.

Available each academic year to universities at the CAE and UCAP-AC level:

  • Reimbursement of fees for three individual student SOA preliminary exam registrations (Exams MFE, MLC and C are eligible1)

Choice of one of these options each academic year:

  • Reimbursement for the purchase of study materials for SOA preliminary exams up to US$500
  • SOA sponsorship for an approved on-campus event up to US$500
  • Reimbursement of travel costs and/or registration fees for student travel to an approved actuarial conference up to US$500

1 Effective July 1, 2018, the new Statistics for Risk Modeling Exam will be eligible for reimbursement along with the Investment and Financial Markets Exam and the Long- and Short-term Actuarial Mathematics Exams.

Ramen noodles, laundromats and dormitories. There are some memories of university life that seem to stand the test of time. While there are certain aspects of the college experience that more or less transcend generations, universities are ever-evolving. In recent years, more and more university actuarial science programs have been identified, with an increased interest from students to enter into the actuarial profession.

In the early 2000s, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) had just a few university-related programs—a list of colleges on the website, some financial support for faculty and a Ph.D. stipend award. But a little more than 10 years ago the SOA Board of Directors took steps to build better connections with academia through three key initiatives: a new University Outreach program, the creation of the Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) program and the financial enhancement of the Ph.D. stipend award now referred to as the Hickman Scholars program. At of the end of 2017, the SOA had visited 148 universities and colleges in 11 countries through the University Outreach program. The group of CAE-recognized universities has grown to 31; and the Hickman Scholar program has graduated 17 Ph.D. candidates, many of whom now hold positions at North American universities.

In 2015, the SOA launched the Actuarial Teaching Conference (ATC) for actuarial educators. The ATC is held every other year and provides an opportunity for all faculty members engaged in actuarial teaching to come together, participate in learning sessions, share ideas, network with each other, and learn more about the SOA and the actuarial profession. Two ATCs have now been held, and educators have expressed their appreciation for the events. It was at the first ATC that the idea for an online Faculty Community was first discussed.

Oh, and that old college listing on the website? It was revamped in early 2015 to provide a better resource for students looking for a university/college actuarial program, and was renamed the Universities and Colleges with Actuarial Programs (UCAP) list. The change meant that each applicant for the list would be vetted to ensure they had resources dedicated to students studying actuarial science. The UCAP list included actuarial programs that maintained course coverage for at least two actuarial exams and had approved courses for at least one Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) topic. UCAP and CAE universities are also displayed on SOA Explorer, an interactive tool that uses Google Maps to not only locate universities, but SOA members, employers, clubs and more.

The response from the academic community to the growing number of SOA programs aimed at supporting universities with actuarial programs and their students has been extremely positive, and the SOA benefits from university programs that promote the kind of education needed for actuaries in today’s world. As a result, the SOA continues to look for opportunities to enhance current university programs and add support where a need is seen.

In 2017, the SOA launched new university-focused programs that are aimed at supporting actuarial students as they seek to take exams and learn more about the profession. The organization is pleased to be able to provide financial support by way of reimbursements to students and direct access to actuarial mentors through new SOA programs.

University Recognition Tiers and Reimbursements

As a first step toward delivering these new student benefits, the SOA created new recognition tiers for universities. In addition to recognizing the CAE program that has been in existence since 2009, the UCAP list now includes two tiers of recognition to identify those programs with more substantial coverage of the SOA exams and requirements. This new structure allows the SOA to better direct university-related resources as appropriate. The SOA Explorer map now distinguishes universities by these recognition tiers.

Gena Long is director, Professionalism and University Relations, at the Society of Actuaries.
Tiffany Tatsumi is academic administrator at the Society of Actuaries.