NJCPA Announces 10 Winners of its Inaugural Student Loan Debt Lottery

 – January 13, 2021
NJCPA Announces 10 Winners of its Inaugural Student Loan Debt Lottery

Raises Awareness of Student Loan Debt Financial Crisis

The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) announced 10 winners of its first-ever Student Loan Debt Lottery created to offset the cost of becoming a certified public accountant (CPA). The winners, who were chosen at random in December out of a pool of 172 applicants, will receive $1,200 each towards their student loan debt.

The inaugural NJCPA Student Loan Debt Lottery was conceived by the Student Loan Debt Task Force and funded by the NJCPA Scholarship Fund to assist NJCPA members who have amassed a significant amount of debt on their way to becoming a CPA.

The winners have a combined student loan debt of more than $425,000 or an average of more than $42,000 each. That amount is higher than the average student loan debt for all New Jersey borrowers of $35,000, according to a 2020 Smartest Dollar report (smartestdollar.com) which placed New Jersey 12th in the nation for the greatest student loan debt per borrower. According to a 2020 EducationData.org report, 65 percent of today’s college students graduate with student loan debt.

“Student loan debt can be crippling for young professionals looking to get themselves settled into life after graduation. In our profession, this is compounded by the stress of studying for and passing the CPA Exam. A concerted effort by schools and organizations is needed to assist students pursuing a career in accounting,” said Melissa Dardani, CPA, a member of the NJCPA Student Loan Debt Task Force.

Zachary Cohen, CPA, a member of the Student Loan Debt Task Force, added, “Student loan debt has skyrocketed to the point that it is hindering not only career choices but life choices. It is a real problem that needs real solutions. This inaugural program is a step in the right direction in addressing this issue, and hopefully this will pave the way for other organizations to implement similar programs.”

This year’s winners included the following:

  • Kevin S. Feeney, CPA, MST, owner at Feeney CPA LLC
  • William S. Howell, CPA, owner at William S. Howell, CPA
  • Jheanelle T. Jackson, CPA, fund operations at Prudential Financial
  • Allen Raevsky, CPA, manager at Allen Raevsky & Company LLC
  • Belinda Scott, CPA, senior tax associate at SKC & Co., CPAs, LLC
  • Philip Sookram, CPA, MAcc, assistant professor of accounting, at Saint Peter's University
  • John (Jack) A. Taylor Jr., CPA, owner, THT Tax and Accounting
  • Juli-Ann Truppi, CPA, accounting manager at Charterhouse USA Inc
  • Jacqueline Justine Vavoules, CPA, senior auditor at Ernst & Young LLP
  • John Verdonck III, CPA, audit senior associate at KPMG LLP

“The accounting profession is particularly rewarding, but it does not come without costs. Between undergraduate, post-graduate, specialized testing and preparation for the CPA Exam, expenses can add up considerably.” said Ralph Albert Thomas, CPA (DC), CGMA, CEO and executive director of the NCJPA.

The NJCPA advocates for better student loan debt management. It supports a bill that would mandate that high school graduation requirements include instruction on tuition assistance programs and student loan debt. It would also require high school students to meet with a guidance counselor to discuss tuition assistance and dual enrollment.