A survey commissioned by Northeastern shows that most Americans—particularly young people—believe that our colleges and universities must be more innovative if the United States is to maintain its global leadership in higher education. The national survey, which also affirmed the economic benefits of college, was the topic of a Nov. 27 summit at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., convened by President Joseph E. Aoun, a recognized expert in higher education innovation trends.

More than 150 leaders from government, academia, and the private sector attended the event to discuss what the survey means for educators and to begin to lay the groundwork for changes in the higher educa-tion system.

According to the survey, Americans still believe college is the gateway to the American dream. Three out of four believe earning a college degree is more important today than it was for their parents’ generation, and 83 percent who attended college say that a degree was a good investment. 

Yet, despite an overall positive attitude toward college, 83 percent of Americans—and 90 percent of young people—say the U.S. higher education system is far from perfect, and that the system must innovate if it is to remain a model for the world.

The survey results also point toward what innovations people want, including more no-frills education options (nonresidential, fewer campus perks), an increased focus on teaching and supporting entrepreneurship, and more online degree options.

At the top of the list, with an overwhelmingly positive response: a cooperative education approach to learning, with most of those surveyed agreeing that co-op better prepares students for success after graduation. 

The numbers below give a fuller picture of what changes Americans would like to see.