Skip to Content

### Enhancing Educational Accessibility at CUNY: A Leap Forward

“The advancement of liberated individuals through education is the aspiration of all humanity,” states Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes. This sentiment encapsulates his core belief. A respected pediatrician, academic in public health, and Chair-elect of the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health, El-Mohandes consistently evaluates the role of education in contemporary society. Our discussion with him delved into his endeavors and sought his insights on the future trajectory of higher education.

El-Mohandes lauds CUNY as a groundbreaking social experiment that exemplifies how education can drive societal transformation. He references a recent study revealing that CUNY propels a significantly higher number of individuals from the second lowest income bracket to the second highest wealth quintile compared to all Ivy League institutions combined. He emphasizes that CUNY was established on principles of social justice and equality, dedicated to extending learning opportunities to all individuals. For him, this epitomizes the essence of higher education.

The foundational principles of CUNY naturally lead us to a broader discourse on the future landscape of the education sector. In a post-pandemic America grappling with demographic shifts, economic challenges, and debates on the value of traditional higher education, what lies ahead for this sector?

Elevating Accessibility to New Heights

El-Mohandes posits that if education serves as the lifeblood of progressive and skilled societies, then the lack of accessibility to education signifies regression. He asserts that by prioritizing accessibility, CUNY facilitates the transition of skilled individuals into the workforce. He believes that accessible education not only fosters equality but also equips society to address contemporary challenges effectively. The sustainability of higher education hinges on placing accessibility at its core.

A significant obstacle, according to El-Mohandes, is dismantling cultural misconceptions surrounding accessibility. There exists a common fallacy equating ‘affordability’ with ‘inferior quality’ or ‘mediocrity.’ Despite these misconceptions, CUNY’s distinguished programs, groundbreaking research initiatives, 13 Nobel laureates, and 26 MacArthur fellows stand as testaments to the possibility of affordable, high-caliber education. El-Mohandes expresses concern that the enrollment crisis might lead to tuition hikes and reduced scholarships instead of encouraging institutions to engage with a broader student demographic. He advocates for a sector-wide response that expands public participation in education.

Embracing Strategic Student Outreach

El-Mohandes advocates for institutions to invest in intentional marketing strategies to remain relevant in the evolving educational landscape. At his institution, the presence of a dedicated Assistant Dean for Marketing, Dr. Sergio Costa, underscores the commitment to attracting the right student cohort. Marketing plays a pivotal role in broadening participation, as disseminating information about college options facilitates educational democratization. El-Mohandes views marketing not as an adjunct but as an integral part of the institution’s identity.

Aligning with Market Demands

In El-Mohandes’ view, universities must adapt their educational offerings to align with market demands effectively. While the focus post-pandemic has largely been on expanding online learning opportunities, enhancing program portfolios goes beyond that. By introducing distinctive and relevant programs such as Population Health Informatics and Health Communication for Social Change, institutions can enhance their competitiveness. El-Mohandes emphasizes the importance of offering programs that cater to the evolving needs and preferences of prospective students.

Enhancing the Student Experience

Amidst evolving job market dynamics, students seek more than just a degree from their university experience. El-Mohandes underscores the importance of community, personalized teaching approaches, and ongoing support that empowers students beyond graduation. He emphasizes the need for institutions to provide comprehensive support systems that nurture students academically and personally. Recognizing the significance of holistic student development, El-Mohandes advocates for initiatives like additional support sessions, flexible scheduling options, robust career guidance, and work placement programs.

Concluding Thoughts

El-Mohandes reflects on the distinctive qualities instilled in CUNY’s valedictorians, noting their pragmatic commitment to serving communities. He expresses his optimism for CUNY to continue producing graduates equipped with the skills and dedication to contribute meaningfully to society. El-Mohandes envisions a future higher education sector defined by a spirit of public service and a commitment to societal betterment.