The Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC 1990, 309) states accounting students “should identify and solve unstructured problems that require the use of multiple information sources. Learning by doing should be emphasized.” The Pathways Commission (2012) also emphasizes the importance of exposing students to complex, real-world problems. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) participation is an experiential learning opportunity with real-world problems and real clients in a professional setting. Using survey data obtained from students at seven U.S. universities, we test whether students who participate in VITA programs have greater professionalism as measured by problem-solving skills and professional commitment. Our results generally indicate participation in VITA programs is positively and significantly associated with problem-solving skills, but not with commitment to the profession. We do not find strong evidence that the association between VITA participation and problem solving differs significantly between traditional (age 25 and under) and nontraditional students (over age 25) or that the association differs significantly for students who intend to pursue tax careers and those who do not. Our study contributes to the extant literature on the effectiveness of experiential learning, to our understanding of attributes of professionalism in students, and to the specific benefits of the VITA program.

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