Northeastern University convened a roundtable on higher education on Thursday afternoon with U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and local university leaders.
Mitchell oversees higher education in the U.S. and the federal student aid program. Stephen W. Director, Northeastern’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, hosted the meeting and discussed topics including the federal Perkins loan program, providing more flexibility in the work study program to allow students to use those funds for co-op, and the university’s recent survey on Generation Z.
Following the roundtable, in a meeting with Northeastern students and young alumni, Mitchell noted the Obama administration’s three priorities in higher education: access, affordability, and outcomes.
Mitchell talked with students and alumni about financial aid and the Obama administration’s forthcoming college ratings system, intended to raise the bar on higher education institutions’ public accountability and provide information to families making college decisions. But the conversation largely focused on Northeastern’s signature co-op program, the cornerstone of the university’s experiential learning model. Northeastern placed students in 9,823 co-ops across all seven continents in 2013–2014, and the number of global co-ops has increased 407 percent since 2006–2007.
Students and alumni consistently praised the co-op program—not only how it influenced their decision to attend Northeastern, but the impact it has since had on their college experience. Fourth-year student Marvin McMoore,SSH’15, explained how his co-ops and other professional experiences have translated to his classwork. McMoore, a political science major, is the president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts and has worked on numerous political campaigns and activities throughout his Northeastern experience.
“Working on political campaigns definitely added to my academics and how I approach it,” he said.
Third-year student Ana Tarbetsky, a sociology major who is pursuing minors in Spanish, linguistics, and psychology, noted that financial aid assistance and her international experiences at Northeastern are intertwined. Financial aid, she said, played an important role in her participation in the university’s Dialogue of Civilizations program as well as her upcoming co-op at the University of Sydney in Australia.
“Without the financial aid, there’s no way I would’ve had the international experience, and that’s something that’s really shaped my life because I’d like to do graduate school in Sydney,” she said.
Group members also credited Northeastern’s career services office and their co-op advisers for preparing them well for their professional experiences. “It’s amazing how much it prepares you not just for co-op but also getting a job long term,” said Jordan Lieberman, DMSB/SSH’15, who noted that he’s had a professional resume since his freshman year.
After the meeting, Mitchell said he was impressed with the students and young alumni’s ability talk about co-op and its connection to their work and the real world.
“Northeastern has contributed to their development in ways that they can mark and measure,” Mitchell said. He added, “What I learned from (the students) is that they are engaged with the world.”
-By Greg St. Martin