Permission to Pay

The Commerce Department's scientific laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, has an arrangement with the University of Colorado designed to attract the brightest young women and minority science and engineering students into government careers. The students work in the lab between classes. Many hire on full-time after graduation.

The problems start when the lab tries to pay the tuition. This entails a three- month-long bureaucratic ritual, with paperwork making three cross-country trips between Boulder and Washington to accumulate signature after signature, approval after approval, by grants specialists and procurement specialists and lawyers, by the Financial Assistance Review Board, by the offices of the inspector general and congressional affairs, and on and on.

No one has ever been disapproved. But some of the students get pretty nervous when months go by without their tuition being paid. Luckily, the university has been patient; it hasn't dropped anyone for non- payment.

Armed with a "Permission Slip," Boulder's Reinvention Coordinator Paige Gilbert thought up a better way, and "just did it." This semester, she is skipping all the red tape and just paying the bill. That should take about two minutes. The scientists who are accountable for spending millions of dollars of project money will also be accountable for the students they select.

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