In his annual State of the Uni­ver­sity Town Hall meeting, Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun yes­terday out­lined the strategy behind Northeastern’s cur­rent, unprece­dented suc­cesses in edu­ca­tion and research. Pres­i­dent Aoun con­trasted Northeastern’s approach over the past five years with many other insti­tu­tions that scaled back their ambi­tions during the recession.

While others were rethinking their edu­ca­tional model, we invested in ours,” said Aoun, refer­ring to Northeastern’s expe­ri­en­tial approach to learning, anchored by co-​​op. “While others reduced research funding, we dou­bled ours. We made strategic bets and those bets are paying off.”

Speaking to an audi­ence of more than 300 people in the Curry Center Ball­room, and hun­dreds more viewing the event online, Aoun cited the glob­al­iza­tion of co-​​op, strong suc­cess in fac­ulty recruit­ment and record fundraising results, among other achievements.

View the full video of the State of the Uni­ver­sity address here.

This year’s freshman class rep­re­sents a large increase in mean SAT score (cur­rently 1341) and includes more merit scholars and stu­dents who grad­u­ated in the top 10 per­cent of their high school class than ever before. In addi­tion, stu­dents in the new class hail from 82 countries.

On the top­ical issue of col­lege costs, Aoun said that over the past five years North­eastern has increased finan­cial aid spending at double the rate of tuition increases. (Tuition has increased an average of 3.9 per­cent and finan­cial aid 8.9 per­cent in the same period.) The Uni­ver­sity is cur­rently spending $160 mil­lion each year (excluding fed­eral funds) on finan­cial aid.

Aoun also stressed that the value propo­si­tion for North­eastern stu­dents is higher than ever, par­tic­u­larly in the cur­rent economy. “Our stu­dents get jobs,” he said adding that 90 per­cent of North­eastern grad­u­ates are employed or in grad­uate school within nine months of grad­u­a­tion, and that the Uni­ver­sity is con­sis­tently ranked first or second in the country rel­a­tive to job placement.

Looking ahead, he urged the assem­bled stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff not to play it safe. “We’ve been extremely suc­cessful, but we have to con­tinue to inno­vate,” Aoun said.

The pres­i­dent ref­er­enced five pri­or­i­ties in need of col­lec­tive focus in the coming year: An exam­i­na­tion of the under­grad­uate expe­ri­ence; University-​​wide fac­ulty hires; lead­er­ship in secu­rity research; campus plan­ning for the future; and the launch of a com­pre­hen­sive fundraising campaign.

Calling fac­ulty the “back­bone of the insti­tu­tion,” Provost Stephen Director fol­lowed up on Aoun’s pro­posals. Director said the new fac­ulty hiring ini­tia­tive would, over the next two years, bring 12 “trans­for­ma­tive” fac­ulty mem­bers to North­eastern — scholars who are “shaping new fields and having a sig­nif­i­cant impact on existing fields.”

On the under­grad­uate edu­ca­tional ini­tia­tive, Director explained that the Uni­ver­sity would come together to better under­stand co-​​op and global edu­ca­tion, as well as how online courses and tech­nology may provider greater cur­ric­ular and student-​​centered flex­i­bility. He said this effort would help artic­u­late a vision for the future of under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion at North­eastern that demon­strates the University’s lead­er­ship in global expe­ri­en­tial learning.

After his address, Pres­i­dent Aoun fielded ques­tions from stu­dents in the audi­ence and via social media on a range of topics, such as diver­sity on campus and plans for more class­rooms and other learning spaces.

One stu­dent, who sub­mitted a ques­tion through Face­book, asked about the University’s co-​​op offer­ings out­side the Boston area. Pres­i­dent Aoun said that today one-​​third of co-​​ops take place out­side the region, but stressed the University’s com­mit­ment to con­tinue expanding expe­ri­en­tial learning across the country and around the world.

The world is too inter­esting to ignore,” he said.