Promise Program as Tax Preparation Instructor

Now that the Promise program has had a couple of years of operational experience, they have seemingly encountered a problem. Perhaps they have made a bigger promise than they can keep. So they are requiring students applying for Promise money to fill out the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" (FAFSA) in order to leverage government assistance as much possible before receiving Promise funds. What’s up with that? We were led to believe from the announcement of the Promise that money would be there for the asking for all graduating seniors who met the grade and attendance requirement. Now they have to jump through the FAFSA hoop before their scholarship is granted.

What’s worse, evidently a lot of students who can graduate from high school and presumably are ready for college cannot fill out the requisite forms so their families will need assistance in filling them out. But wait. The FAFSA forms rely heavily on tax returns which, according to the Promise’s executive director, many families have not done and are scared of the prospect. Little wonder. That will raise questions the IRS might be interested in getting answers to. In any event, the Promise program, in cooperation with the United Way, will offer tax preparation instruction to student families.

But it gets worse. The tax preparation course will be open to the 3,700 student families who make up to $52,000. One would have thought people making, say, $35,000 or more per year, would know about tax returns and would have done their own or had a tax preparation professional prepare their returns.

And, why aren’t guidance counselors and other school professionals helping students fill out scholarship applications if they need it? That’s what they are paid for. Using limited Promise funds seems like an egregious duplication. Unless of course the real reason is that with the big jump in funding to $10,000 per year for students graduating in 2012, the program managers are starting to feel the need to direct students to other sources so as to reduce the amount the fund will have to provide.