Last week, Northeastern convened an Innovation Summit at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., where leaders from higher education, politics and the media discussed the results of a nationwide survey commissioned by our university.

The survey – which asked Americans about the value of higher education, barriers to pursuing a degree, and how universities can innovate – showed that the public has clear ideas about how universities can better meet their needs. The findings garnered press coverage, including U.S. News & World ReportThe Chronicle of Higher EducationThe Huffington Post and

It also revealed that the innovations the public is calling for are already firmly in place at Northeastern.  For instance, the poll showed that overwhelming majorities of Americans believe that experiential learning, grounded in co-op, is tremendously beneficial.  Upwards of 90 percent of Americans said that co-op is an excellent way to help students find the right career path, develop applied skills, and find employment in a tough job market.

Moreover, large majorities of Americans agreed that universities should be doing more to teach students about entrepreneurship – an approach we have embraced through our Center for Entrepreneurship Education, the Entrepreneurship Club, the Center for Research Innovation and Idea, our student-run venture accelerator.

The most intriguing finding, however, is that supermajorities of young Americans have a positive view of online degree programs.  More than three-fifths of 18-30 year-olds say that online education is now comparable in quality to in-person classes, and almost 70 percent believe that online degrees will be just as recognized by employers as traditional degrees in a few years.  Even more young people – well over 80 percent — have a favorable view of hybrid programs that combine online classes with in-person instruction.

These results support our strategy to build a diverse portfolio of online options at Northeastern, which now includes almost 50 degree programs and 30 graduate certificates.  They also support our graduate campus initiative, through which we offer online and hybrid programs in key locations such as Charlotte and Seattle.

At the same time, the survey highlights Americans’ strong desire for universities to innovate even more.  To extend our leadership, we must capitalize on all we have accomplished together and meet the public’s call.

As the academic year progresses, we will continue to introduce new online and hybrid programs, expand experiential learning opportunities, and enhance our campus-based programs further.  I invite every member of our community – faculty, students and staff – to contribute your ideas regarding these priorities.

I encourage you to reach out to your Deans and Steve Zoloth, our Dean for External Programs, with your proposals.  Now is your opportunity to shape the next set of innovations that will keep Northeastern in the vanguard of higher education.

With this survey, the American public has spoken – and they speak highly of the hallmarks that define a Northeastern education.  Now let’s show the nation, and the world, that we continue to be a university that anticipates the needs of students – rather than one that merely responds after the fact.


Joseph E. Aoun