By Deanna C. White
Social security, the burgeoning national deficit, and tax reform are some of the most urgent issues facing the American public, and, as such, they've risen to the top of the talking points for candidates stumping in the 2012 election.
But this fall, the accounting community and the general public will also have the chance to hear comments on how to solve these issues from a very different perspective - that of undergraduate accounting students - thanks to the AICPA's annual accounting competition.
This year's competition challenges students to solve some of the most pressing financial issues facing the United States, while considering what it takes to get politicians elected. Students competing in the first round have until October 1 to present their best ideas on Social Security, the national deficit, and taxes in 1,000 words or less.
"This year's competition gives students a chance to think strategically and develop creative solutions to financial issues that are in the national spotlight right now," said Rebecca Mahler, AICPA manager of Career Research and Student Organizational Partnerships. "We're challenging students to address these issues in a way that a would-be presidential candidate - and ultimately the general public - would be responsive to, and that is no easy task."
The top three teams and their advisors will receive a trip package to Washington, DC, to present their case to an executive panel of judges. There, they will compete for the top award of $10,000. Second place will receive $5,000, and the third-place team will receive $2,500.
"The AICPA competition is all about working as a team and using your critical thinking, research, writing, and presentation skills," said Alan Perry, a senior at North Carolina State University and captain of last year's winning team. "My teammates and I gained a lot of practical experience and improved in all of those skill areas with each round of the competition. It was a great way to learn about different career paths and what kind of a career I was seeking."
Eileen Z. Taylor, PhD, assistant professor of accounting at North Carolina State University and faculty advisor of last year's winning team, said that along with the topics addressed in the competition, there are a variety of economic and tax issues that are important to students in this year's election.
"I think students should be concerned about personal debt, especially debt associated with student loans," Taylor said. "I also think job growth and the availability of good jobs should be important to them."
Taylor said based on her observations, she believes students are also especially focused on the regulation of Wall Street and the big banks in this year's election.
"They want a fair chance to succeed as long as they work hard," Taylor said.
All team rosters and first-round submissions must be received no later than 11:59 a.m. ET on October 1, 2012 at www.thiswaytocpa.com/2012
Teams must be comprised of four undergraduate students (attending a two-year or four-year degree institution). Two team members must be declared accounting-related majors, one of which must serve as team captain. The two remaining members may come from any discipline.
Each team may also elect to have an advisor who can be either a full-time faculty member or graduate student at a two-year or four-year degree institution.
First-round submissions will be evaluated to determine the twenty semifinalists who will compete for those three coveted finalist spots.