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SXU's Graham School of Management Volunteers Return $149,685 in Tax Refunds to Low-Income Households


Saint Xavier University's (SXU) Graham School of Management (GSM) has participated in the Ladder Up program for more than five years, providing volunteers to support the program in guiding low-income households to the resources they need to move up the economic ladder toward a brighter future. Through the Ladder Up's Tax Assistance Program (TAP), the volunteers offer free electronic preparation and filing of individual tax returns to help clients access critical tax refunds. During the 2019 season, 14 SXU volunteers returned an estimated $149,685 in tax refunds to hardworking clients through TAP.

Professor Donald Cyze, who has been teaching at SXU for over 25 years, played a crucial role in the success of the program. His leadership in recruiting and coordinating volunteers helped the program impact thousands of clients.

With the help of Professor Indranil Ghosh, chair of the Division of Accounting and Finance, Cyze organized the program at SXU, citing it as both a wonderful volunteer opportunity and a high-impact practice for the students. "As a volunteer for Ladder Up, I found it emotionally gratifying and wanted to share that feeling and some practical experience with my tax students," said Cyze.  

Students learn a lot about professional tax work, including how to interact with clients, prepare returns and work on a time constraint. "Students are very enthusiastic about participating. They really feel like they are fulfilling the SXU mission by assisting and serving those in need," said Ghosh.

After receiving training from Ladder Up, students are required to participate in several tax preparation sessions. The experience also provides students with an opportunity to meet people from other socioeconomic backgrounds. Cyze considers this one of his unspoken agendas. "For some students, this may be the only experience that they have had which requires they interact with a more diverse set of people," said Cyze.

Faculty have strongly embraced the program and find it technically valuable and a great service to the community. Students find the program rewarding on a professional and personal level, and it is eye-opening for many to see what other people do not have. They also enjoy receiving the sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude that clients express. By participating, students are able to employ comradery among other volunteers at the sites. From time to time, GSM has even had alumni return to participate in the program.

The Graham School of Management plans to continue the program and would like the SXU community to know how fulfilling and rewarding the work being done by students and faculty is. Eventually, Cyze would like to create GSM's own Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. "We do this because it's part of the SXU mission and a service to the community," said Cyze.