Students feel taxed by tax season

The University only offers income tax courses to accounting majors.

by Kate Raddatz

ItâÄôs tax season, but many students donâÄôt have to worry about making the deadline for federal tax returns âÄî they let their parents do the job for them.
âÄúI donâÄôt know much at all,âÄù said University of Minnesota marketing senior Jessica Chung. âÄúMy dad would simply do my taxes for me and then hand me the sheet. IâÄôm about to graduate, and I need to be able to do this on my own.âÄù
Like Chung, many students are lost when it comes to filing taxes, and education administrators are taking notice. High schools and colleges around the country are making personal finance courses mandatory for graduation to ensure students get financial guidance in the classroom.
As of 2009, 13 states required students to take a personal finance course to graduate from high school, according to the Council for Economic Education.
At the university level, the requirement is less common.
âÄúIt would just cost us more time and money,âÄù said music junior Robert Komaniecki. âÄúThere are plenty of other ways to teach yourself about finances âÄî ask your parents to sit down and show you how to do your taxes.âÄù
The problem for universities without a required finance course is student access to money management courses. The University offers courses on the fundamentals of federal income tax, but theyâÄôre limited to accounting majors.
âÄúThere arenâÄôt very many courses to teach you how to handle your money. You have to look outside the classroom,âÄù Chung said.
Administrators have considered making financial literacy a required course but fear the extra credit load could prevent students from graduating on time, said Kris Wright, director of the UniversityâÄôs Office of Student Finance.
âÄúWe have been talking a lot more about what we can do in financial literacy,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs an area a lot of people at the University are concerned about.âÄù
Instead of requiring students to take a finance class, Wright recommended the student services like those of the Minnesota Student Association.
Chemistry junior Andrew Heairet said he thinks requiring a financial literacy course at the University could help decrease drop-out rates related to
financial issues.
âÄúMedical bills and financial mismanagement are the top two reasons for college dropouts, but students are never taught how to manage money in school,âÄù said Heairet, president of the College of Science and Engineering Student Board. âÄúFinancial literacy is indispensable to students.âÄù
Students who support the idea of a financial literacy requirement said they believe the course would save them money in the long run.
âÄúWith the average U of M student graduating with over $22,000 in debt, financial literacy is crucial for the well-being of the graduates,âÄù Heairet said.
Most colleges have favored the UniversityâÄôs approach of offering financial education outside of the classroom rather than making a financial literacy course mandatory.
St. Olaf College uses periodic surveys, focus groups and class feedback to gauge what financial education services students think would be helpful.
âÄúSometimes students just arenâÄôt aware of the programs and services that are already available,âÄù said Jo Beld, St. OlafâÄôs director of evaluation and assessment. âÄúThe biggest thing is just letting students know what [the school] already has for them.âÄù
MSA offers free tax return training through the Volunteer Tax Assistant Program. Chung has taken advantage of the program this tax season.
In addition to VTAP, the University offers free finance education outlets like financial literacy newsletters, tax assistant websites and the Live Like a Student Now program.
While a financial literacy course may not emerge in the near future for University graduation requirements, Chung said all hope is not lost.
âÄúThe resources are there,âÄù she said. âÄúOnce you find them, doing your taxes is relatively easy.âÄù
Students will get three extra days to file this year, as Tax Day was moved from its usual April 15 to the following Monday in observance of Emancipation Day.