Albion Students Finish Second in National Accounting Competition

Clockwise from upper left: Peter Curry, Evan Malecke, John Rogers, Don Strite
Clockwise from upper left: Peter Curry, Evan Malecke, John Rogers, Don Strite

UPDATE, DECEMBER 19 – The Albion team placed second in the national finals of the 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition, competing against two public universities in Washington, D.C. The University of Texas at Dallas finished first and North Carolina State University came in third. See the AICPA site at the link above for more, including Albion's video presentation.

UPDATE, NOVEMBER 16 – Albion has reached the finals of the 2012 AICPA Accounting Competition, one of three teams to make it through the public voting period. The Albion foursome will be in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16-19 where it will make a presentation to panelists.

Seasoned by the experience he gained last fall with Albion College's regional champion Fed Challenge team, Evan Malecke this year is contributing his talents to an accounting competition sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs. The Briton soccer player from South Lyon is one of four Albion students who have advanced as one of 20 semifinal teams in the national competition.

The team, coached by economics and management professor John Carlson, includes Don Strite (a member of the Briton men's cross country team), Peter Curry and John Rogers. The competition challenges students to solve some of the most pressing financial issues facing the United States – the deficit, income taxes, and Social Security – while considering what it takes to get politicians elected.

The AICPA received 100 written presentations and cut the field to the semi-finalists who were charged with creating video presentations. The presentations will be available for public voting November 8 to whittle the teams down to the final three.

"In terms of economics, [the Fed Challenge] is broad, and there are fewer rules and more policies to work with," Malecke said. "There are a couple of basic tax systems in accounting and fewer templates that governments follow.

"The Fed Challenge experience has been helpful in learning how to make an argument and being logical in every step you take," he added. "I look at the argument from the outside, as someone who doesn’t know taxes and accounting, and try to ask, 'Do I understand this?' The main thing I learned from the Fed Challenge is that the argument must make sense because they won’t pass you even if you have smart ideas."

While Malecke admitted balancing his academic and athletic endeavors is sometimes daunting, he noted that the competitive nature of the Fed Challenge and the AICPA contest brings out his best.

"I learn best through competition," Malecke said. "In class, it’s a competition with my friends to see who can get the better score. Any time there is a competition that will help me build on my knowledge base for my future, I’ll jump on it."

Malecke and Strite – who are both economics and management majors with an emphasis in accounting – have been getting up to speed on key public policy questions. They then determine if ideas proposed by Rogers, an economics and management major with a concentration in the college's Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service, are innovative and practical.

Strite said they have invested significant time in understanding how the American economy is doing and how it is impacted by politics. "We had to do a lot of research into current policy," he added, "and then relate that to possible solutions that people haven’t already expressed.

"John is quite adamant about the competition," he added. "He's put a lot of work into it and has come up with a lot of good ideas. It's our job to determine how his ideas relate to accounting measures."

The accountants say the number-crunching will intensify as the competition moves to the semifinal round. The Albion team maintains that simplifying the tax code will save Americans time and money.

"Our initial paper was vague because it was limited to 1,000 words," Strite said. "Now we have to come up with facts to support the ideas.

"Everything is so confusing with deductions, what can be taxed, and tax brackets," he added. "It got to the point where it was hard for us to even find the statistics. We want everyone to be able to read our proposal and understand the plan."

Whatever the outcome of the contest, Malecke and Strite say what they most want to do is to bring credit to Albion and the quality of students in the academic programs.

"We're all competitive and believe with the team we've put together that we can take a stab at this," Strite said.

Malecke added, "We're the underdog as a small school. We have a lot of smart people who go here, and we would like to prove that to the big schools."