Taxing real-world experience

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Many times college students wonder how the information they are learning in class will benefit them in the real world. Luckily for some consumer affairs students, the real world is part of their curriculum.

This semester Rui Yao, an assistant professor of consumer affairs, is teaching Consumer Affairs 450-Financial Planning: Applications. In this class, the students will be running a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) center where SDSU students can receive help with filing their income tax returns.

The service is free to all SDSU students who are U.S. citizens or residents. International students are not eligible for the service this year, because the consumer affairs class is not yet licensed to prepare international returns.

Students do not need to set up an appointment and are welcome to stop by Wenona Hall 015 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on any of the nine Thursdays of operation: Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28; March 6, 13 and 27; and April 3 and 10.

Yao said the center will be operating on a first come, first serve basis and that students should plan to be at the center for an hour at the least-not including waiting time-or longer if their return is complex.

When students come, they should bring photo identification, the social security cards of everyone associated with their return, all W-2 forms, all 1099 forms, a copy of their 2006 tax return, any other forms or information that may be associated with their federal income taxes and bank account information if they wish to direct deposit their return. If married students are filing a joint tax return, both spouses need to be present and need to bring picture identification.

Yao first had the idea for a class like this when she attended a workshop called “Service Learning” two years ago. The workshop talked about building community service into students’ coursework, and Yao began to think about how she could incorporate service learning into her classes at SDSU.

She realized that she was teaching financial planning, and she asked herself, “What can I do to help ? students on campus first and then extend to the community in Brookings.”

Yao described the class as a “win-win situation” for SDSU. “It helps students so they don’t have to pay out of pocket expenses to hire a CPA, and my students have the experience of working with real people,” she said.

Yao feels her students will benefit from this unique type of class. For example, the experience requires the students to be responsible in their work. She said that with hypothetical cases, students do not care if they make a few mistakes, but with a real life situation, students cannot make any errors.

The students also believe they will benefit. “The VITA program gives students and faculty the chance to help us with expanding our knowledge in the financial field of our careers,” said Emily Hoekman, a senior consumer affairs major.

Amanda Schrank, a senior consumer affairs major, is taking the class because her major requires it, but she also sees the class as a great résumé builder.

Troy Covrig hopes to benefit from this class by learning more about a possible future career. “Will I ever want to do this for a living? Hopefully this class will help make up my mind,” the senior consumer affairs major said.

Not only is the class beneficial to the students, but the consumer affairs students also feel the class is important to SDSU. “I think that VITA is important to SDSU because it offers free help to students filing their taxes on their own. It also gives us practice filing them,” said Michelle Veeder, a senior consumer affairs student.

“The VITA program is one of many charitable programs that are sponsored by SDSU,” Covrig said. “These programs help the underprivileged and express our college’s concern for the general public’s well-being.”