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Education Secretary Cardona visits Wesleyan University to discuss the end of affirmative action

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to students at Wesleyan University.
Molly Ingram
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to students at Wesleyan University.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Wesleyan University in Connecticut on Friday to speak about college admissions without affirmative action.

Cardona, who is from Meriden, talked to the students about the changing admissions process.

He said the pressure is on universities to make sure their campuses are diverse.

“All students deserve an opportunity based on their ability to do well in high school, but also what they can contribute to a university,” Cardona said. “And I think university leaders know this. It's about making sure that we're actually leading now and looking for ways to bring students in, do a better job recruiting and retaining students from different backgrounds.”

Students told Cardona they want to see professors that look like them. They said they can learn better when they can relate to their educators and peers.

Cardona, who was a first generation college student, agreed.

“Each one of these students here today told me that one of the things they love most about Wesleyan is learning in an environment that's diverse,” Cardona said. “You have people from different countries, different parts of the state, different backgrounds, that leads to better solutions that leads to stronger sense of empathy and looking at different perspectives. That's what we need more of in this country.”

Cardona said high schools should offer early college experience classes to introduce students to higher education. He also suggested colleges recruit in all kinds of communities to keep their student body diverse.

“I think across the country, we have to be more intentional about seeking students and making sure that they feel welcome, and that they belong at our universities,” he said.

Wesleyan also ended their legacy admission program last week, which gives preferential admission to children of alumni.

“President [Biden] made it very clear, we need to revisit the college admission processes in general, and legacy admissions is one of those things,” Cardona said. “I will say this is an opportunity for us as a country to really be innovative around how we're bringing students on campus, and how we're making them feel connected.”

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.