February 13, 2009
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Accounting students preparing for local and global demands
The Accounting Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver has struck an invaluable balance for its students by offering global education along with local, real-world experiences that make a difference.
On the international front, the College is hosting Visiting Professor of Accounting Minga Negash. An accounting professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Negash finds himself in the United States during unprecedented economic times. The view through his eyes helps the students to understand how many other countries may see the U.S. right now.
"The United State is too big and too important to fail," he says. "Other countries feel it, including those in Africa. There's an expected reduction in development assistance and export, a decline in capital and credit flows to the developing world, and further reduction in the remittance from the African Diaspora in the United States and other OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.”
Just as important he says "when you (the United States) can’t afford to consume more, it's not good for countries producing commodities."
Negash, who will be teaching and researching at Metro State through fall semester 2009, brings a wealth of experience to the College. He has worked in academia for nearly 30 years, with study, research, teaching and leadership experiences in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Belgium, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“We are lucky to have him here,” says Chair and Professor of Accounting Rick Crosser. “He could have gone almost anywhere for his sabbatical.”
He chose to come to the College that represents the largest undergraduate accounting program in Colorado, with more than 700 students currently majoring in accounting.
While at Metro State, he will be teaching accounting students from a global perspective. "I'm introducing the students to the International Financial Reporting Standard, which is a set of financial reporting standards developed by the International Accounting Standards Board used by more than 100 countries around the world,” says Negash. “This is not something the United States actually uses now, but the trend is already set, and it may not be too far before the United States moves to join the international trend. The College appropriately feels that its graduates should know the new trend.”
The local angle
That trend will certainly help Metro State students prepare for the growing demand for accountants. According to a Jan. 16, 2009 Forbes magazine article College majors that will get you a job, “times have never been better for accounting majors. This is partly because the Obama administration is calling for greater oversight of the financial markets.”
But even before they graduate and head out to tackle the nation’s or the world’s finances, these students are making a difference locally for many citizens during a stressful time – tax season.
For nearly 20 years, accounting students have participated in the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) class, helping low-income citizens with free tax preparations while earning credit toward their degree.
Tax season, though sometimes filled with stressful deadlines, can often be the time when families recoup some of their expenses from the previous year. Many have traditionally used their refunds to reinvest in the home, business or even to take a family vacation. In these harsh economic times, many citizens just need their refund to catch up on their mortgage payments.
“This is the year that people are using their refunds toward living expenses,” says Affiliate Accounting Professor Robert Jaros, who has led the class for five years. “We’ve had some taxpayers come in to say we are unemployed, what do I do?”
The class, worth three credits, prepares income tax returns for low-income Denver-area residents with a household income up to $42,000. The 23-student class, which began Jan. 31 and ends April 14, is held at Emily Griffith Opportunity School Tuesdays and Thursdays 5:30-8:30.
Last year a class of 25 students prepared 755 tax returns. The savings to the community was about $150,000 in tax preparation fees. In addition, earned income tax credits totaled $302,284 and federal refunds totaled $687,905. This does not include refunds from State of Colorado income taxes and federal economic stimulus payments, which represented a significant amount.
The class prepares several different types of returns with varying degrees of difficulty from Schedule A (itemized deductions) to Schedule C (self-employment) to Schedule D (capital gains and losses). Metro State students prepare for the VITA class by taking the Individual Income Tax class, passing the IRS certification test and becoming familiar with TaxWise software.