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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Government to the Nth Degree

"It is a graduate school with 100,000 students but no tenured faculty, no campus to speak of and no degree-granting powers. And despite its name -- 'Graduate School, USDA' -- it has very little to do with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or farming.

Instead, the unusual 85-year-old institution is one of the most popular adult education and federal training centers in the country, offering more than 1,000 classes in more than 70 cities for government workers and ordinary folks alike. It does it all without any money from Congress, paying for its operations through tuition charges and training contracts.

Every weekday, agencies all over Washington send hundreds of employees to a private office building near the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, where the Graduate School offers federal training in subjects such as financial management, government auditing, human resources and information technology. The school is the place for unsexy but useful classes such as "Federal Budgeting for Non-Budgeting Personnel," "Position Classification for Supervisors and Administrative Staff," and "The Role of the Human Resources Specialist in Competitive Sourcing.""

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