Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Mail Order Pay Raise

Magazine article The Washington Monthly

Mail Order Pay Raise

Article excerpt

You may have seen the recent stories about civil servants who got their jobs or promotions through bogus degrees that they bought from institutions where the parchment is granted by mail-order. What you may not know is why government employees would go so far to obtain a degree. The reason is that eligibility for most of the better federal jobs is determined, not on the basis of the written tests the public imagines, but on the basis of a paper record. Degrees make a big difference. But personnel evaluators seldom look behind the paper to see if the degree is real and truly reflects the applicant's ability to do a better job.

Even where written tests are given, the civil service does not always work as the public imagines. In Boston, for example, where most police and fire department jobs are supposed to be awarded by merit testing, only six of 200 top scorers were among the 51 recently, deemed eligible to fill the available jobs. …

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