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Student Story: Family Financial Planner Gives Back with Help from Online Degree

Feature Story
Posted on Nov, 29 2011

Photo of John Bohnsack

After graduating from North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on finance, John Bohnsack knew he would soon be leaving the area.  While in the work world, he realized that in order to really be effective in the financial planning field he would need to become certified in family financial planning. That is when his educational path took an interesting turn and came full circle back to NDSU. 

While researching schools that offer a master’s program registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards he found out that NDSU, his alma mater, happens to offer a master’s degree in family financial planning.  Not only does NDSU offer the program, it is also available fully online. The online nature of this program would allow Bohnsack to complete the program even though he knew he would be moving away from Fargo. So, Bohnsack started the program while living in Fargo and eventually moved to College Station, Texas, where he currently resides and is just about to graduate from the program.

Part of the family financial planning curriculum includes an applied practicum that students can complete from wherever they are located. When it came time for him to do his practicum he knew he wanted to be a part of a meaningful and productive collaboration with a local non-profit organization because giving back to his local community is important to him. During Bohnsack’s undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University he volunteered with the United Way of Cass Clay.  This volunteer experience prompted him to contact the United Way in his local community in Texas to complete his practicum. Turns out the United Way had an excellent opportunity for him to give back in his own community while completing his practicum through their VITA tax site.

VITA tax sites are designed to provide individuals or families with low to moderate income levels a place to receive free assistance with their taxes.  Often unethical tax preparers will prey upon this tax bracket because of the larger tax returns generally received.  Individuals working at VITA tax sites are trained and certified in tax preparation from a senior level agent with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

This opportunity was a perfect fit for Bohnsack who was able to use his knowledge of family financial planning and his commitment to a code of ethical conduct to educate individuals about their taxes and refer individuals to other services the United Way offers.  Bohnsack indicated that one highlight of this opportunity was “Teaching individuals to wait ten to fifteen days to get a check from the government would save them a lot of money by not having to pay 40 to 50 percent interest rates on a refund anticipation loan.” 

His story is an excellent example of how knowledge gained from an online degree program can benefit people nationwide.  His story is also a great example of how giving back locally can provide students with needed experience when applying for jobs. Bohnsack said for him, “The practical tax experience gained through the VITA tax site was key in finding a job.” He was recently offered a position with a financial planning firm and graduated from the family financial planning program in December 2011.