Program matches accounting students with small businesses

When Eduardo Chavez-Guerrero's wife's business started to take off, he decided to help her run CP Universal LLC, which provides decoration for special events such as corporate lunches and weddings.

"My wife has run the business for five or six years and it really started to grow and with the growth came other areas we needed to know more about, like accounting and taxes," he said. "I have no idea what accounting is about and I abhor it with a passion."

Chavez-Guerrero saw an ad in a Hispanic magazine promoting a pilot program by the University of Texas at San Antonio that paired high-level accounting students with small businesses. He called and after filling out a simple form, several university students were helping him unravel the mysteries of accounting.

"They came to my office and took me by the hand and helped me understand this otherwise unfriendly piece of software," he said.

So it was real world meets academics when the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Business started Accounting 4963: Experiential Lab in Accounting as a pilot program in spring 2008. A course offered for three semesters prepares upper-level accounting students for the work force by matching them with clients at the university's Small Business Development Center.

"Accounting employers commonly express concerns that students are not prepared for real-world situations," said university senior lecturer in accounting Gary Bridges, who oversees the class. "Education and industry both say that internships are the right channel for getting these students the experience they will need on the job. Unfortunately not every student can get an internship."

To make the program work, Bridges approached the Small Business Development Center, which is funded by the Small Business Administration and the state. It provides support for entrepreneurs by consulting with them on fundamentals of business and basic business accounting. The Development Center doesn't have the staff to provide follow-up consulting with all of the clients who want it, so the internship program was a win-win for both groups.

"Too many small business owners cannot afford the time or money it takes to put in place the proper bookkeeping and accounting procedures," said the Development Center's Senior Business Advisor Tom Hansis. "This internship program helps our clients with solutions for operating a small business."

The students help clients with a range of issues, from installing and implementing accounting software to employee time tracking, bank reconciliations, purchasing issues, cash flow management, and many more. The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, which is the state's credentialing agency for certified public accountants, agreed to treat the course as an internship, counting toward the educational requirements to sit for the CPA exam.

For small business owners like Chavez-Guerrero, the program was a blessing. He has enrolled in the next session to try to learn even more about accounting and has recommended it to other small business owners.
 

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