Student research leads to grant for EITC program

Huntington, Ind.—Research conducted by seven Huntington University social work students has led to the possibility of a new community assistance program.

In the summer of 2008, Carla MacDonald, assistant professor of social work, met with Pat Horoho, executive director of the United Way of Huntington County, and asked for project ideas for a course she teaches, Social Work Practice III. One of the components of the class is a community-based project that includes anything from assessments to grant writing to community development.

Katie Sprunger shares with social service agency and local government representatives about site logistics for an EITC program.
Horoho suggested and the students agreed to conduct a study about establishing an Earned Income Tax Credits program for low income families in Huntington County. EITC assists low-income workers by reducing their income tax liability. The program provides a refundable credit allotted to an individual or family’s income once it falls below a certain level.

“The students saved the United Way $20,000,” Horoho said. “If we had hired a firm, the study probably wouldn’t have been as good, and it would have cost significantly more.”

Mack Miller discusses IRS resources for EITC programs with social service agency and local government representatives.
The students began working on the study at the beginning of the fall 2008 semester. They conducted research and interviewed local social service representatives including John Niederman, president of Pathfinder Services, Inc.; Steve Miller, executive director of Huntington County Habitat for Humanity; Holly Saunders, executive director of the Huntington County Council on Aging; and Sara Landrum, social worker for the Huntington County Community School Corporation. The students also interviewed EITC experts in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Evansville and South Bend and obtained information on the benefits of such a program for low-income individuals.

Lissa Shipman (center) responds to a question following a presentation about EITC while Danielle Ronges (left) and Cara Thomas observe.
As a result of the students interviewing Niederman, he became interested in their project and found a $25,000 grant to fund the implementation of an EITC program in Huntington County.

“The students were inspired by their meeting with John because they realized the possibility of their study leading to the actual implementation of a service such as this for our community,” MacDonald said.

John Niederman, president of Pathfinder Services, Inc., (right) asks the students a question. Huntington Mayor Steve Updike is in the background.
The students presented their findings to 10 social service agency and local government representatives on Dec. 3.

“EITC needs to be in every town in every county,” said Katie Sprunger, a senior social work major from Berne, Ind. “If I live in Adams County for the rest of my life, this project has made me want to start an EITC program there.”

Attendees of the students' presentation included (left to right) Bill Hancher and Jim Hollar, United Way Board of Huntington County members; Natalie Brautigam and Beth Depoy of Family Centered Services; Carla MacDonald, assistant professor of social work; and Ruth Marsh from the City of Huntington.
Other students involved in the project include senior social work majors Stacie Cheek and Cara Thomas of Franklin, Ind.; Stephanie Ihnen and Danielle Ronges of Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mack Miller of Huntington; and Lissa Shipman of Parker, Col.

Following the students’ presentation, social service agency and local government representatives met to discuss what organizations could take responsibility for implementing an EITC program in Huntington County.

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


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