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The White House at dusk on Nov.18, 2019.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

Why are so many college seniors in influential Trump admin posts?

Last month, we learned an undergraduate student was hired for an influential White House post. Evidently, he wasn't the only one.


The White House's Presidential Personnel Office traditionally hasn't maintained a high profile, but it's hardly trivial. On the contrary, the PPO is responsible for filling the executive branch with political appointees. That's important work under any circumstances, but as the federal government faces new personnel challenges from the pandemic, the office takes on an even more acute relevance.

As Politico reported this week, however, this same office seems to have hired several people who haven't yet graduated.

PPO recently brought on a fourth college senior to be a Trump administration official.... The fourth college senior is Jordan Hayley, a Liberty University senior majoring in history and international relations who started in February as PPO's external relations director. In that role, her job is to conduct outreach and build relationships with agencies, potential hires and outside organizations.

If Liberty University sounds at all familiar, it's the evangelical school in Virginia created by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. It's now run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent political ally to Donald Trump.

And if hiring students who haven't yet earned their degrees also sounds familiar, it's because it's been happening quite a bit lately.

Two months ago, Politico reported on the White House hiring a college senior to be one of the top officials in the Presidential Personnel Office: 23-year-old James Bacon is apparently splitting his time between the White House, where he'll be the PPO's director of operations, and George Washington University, where he's working on getting his undergraduate degree.

Politico reported soon after that Anthony Labruna is serving as deputy White House liaison at the Department of Commerce, despite the fact that he's still a senior at Iowa State. The same outlet then discovered that John Troup Hemenway has been brought on to assist the deputy director of the Presidential Personnel Office, despite the fact that Hemenway is also still an undergraduate student.

To be sure, those who spend time in D.C. quickly discover how incredibly important young staffers are -- in the executive branch, on Capitol Hill, in cabinet agencies, in the courts, on K Street, and even at media bureaus. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the political system in the nation's capital would grind to a halt without them.

But it's generally understood that these young 20-somethings work tirelessly in the hopes of eventually rising in the ranks, gaining new responsibilities, and perhaps even earning opportunities -- such as helping lead the office that staffs the executive branch.

The idea that the Trump administration isn't even waiting for these young staffers to graduate before giving them influential jobs sure is ... different.