Students gain experience, help community through VITA program

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Pennsylvania College of Technology students offered free assistance to about 160 taxpayers this spring, helping them to realize close to $170,000 in income-tax refunds.

Sixteen Penn College students took part in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, an initiative of the IRS that offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, or those who may need assistance preparing their own returns because of a disability or language barrier.

All but two of the students are enrolled in the course Income Taxation of Individuals, taught by Michael D. Shipman, instructor of business administration/accounting. They are pursuing degrees in accounting, legal assistant paralegal, and business administration: banking and finance concentration.

They spent January learning introductory tax concepts and passing VITA certification exams that are required by law for them to work in the college’s VITA clinic, which was open for walk-ins in the college’s Madigan Library throughout the tax season.

“This program is good for students because they can get a general education on taxation in our country almost anywhere, but this rarely prepares them adequately for real-world tax accounting work, let alone doing their own or loved ones’ tax returns,” Shipman said. “At Penn College, we strive for a hands-on, technology-based education. This program gives them just that.”

On average, each of the students worked 36 hours in the clinic and prepared 10 returns.

“Students better learn how to do tax returns by actually doing real returns,” Shipman said. “Not only do we learn better by doing, but by attaching real-life consequences to our work, we retain more of what we learn for future work and personal application.”

Participating students were Morgan E. Blackwell, of Beech Creek; Karen M. Fay, of Williamsport; Cassandra D. Henderson, of Hazel Hurst; Riley H. Hengler, of Williamsport; Katelyn M. Klinger, of Catawissa; Kyle M. Landis, of Troy; Taylor B. Leitzell, of Beech Creek; Joshua D. Lyman, of Williamsport; Chyanne N. Mattern, of Williamsport; Sarah A. Mongiello, of Canadensis; Steven C. Shuck, of Montgomery; Shania R. Smith, of Montgomery; Tommie L. Smith, of Montgomery; Marcus D. Stopper, of Williamsport; Michael L. Troutman, of Williamsport; and Ryan H. Tucker, of State College.

For the students in Shipman’s Income Taxation class, the clinic work was a project for the course.

For Blackwell and Henderson, the experience was voluntary.

To learn more about Penn College’s accounting and finance majors, visit or call 570-327-4505.

For information about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, visit, email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Last Updated May 15, 2017