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Joseph Aoun On Northeastern University’s National Expansion

Dr. Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University (AP)

Dr. Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern University (AP)

Northeastern University has been on an expansion tear for some years now (just ask its neighbors in the South End, Roxbury, and Mission Hill).

Now it’s expanding again, this time into Charlotte, North Carolina. Then to Seattle. And perhaps, Austin, Minneapolis and Silicon Valley.

The Charlotte satellite campus is the first in a new hybrid-education model that aims to reinvent the way graduate education works.

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun joins us to talk about his plans.


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  • Bo Geste

    I’d be more impressed if Northeastern were to strengthen its mediocre academic standards, rather than focus on making more money. 
    Does intellectual rigor pay off? I don’t know, try asking Harvard and MIT.

  • Rob

    I tried so hard to dial into this ridiculous conversation. The questioning was so one sided and addressed none of the issues.

    I had such a high level of respect for this show until today.  

    Ok, i am a little calmer now.

    They are doing this for one reason and one reason only, MONEY!

    The fact that Joseph said they have the highest level of people wanting to come to the school this year is that the unemployment rate is through the roof, How could the person doing the interview not comment on this?!!!

    Also why didn’t the interviewer ask why so many people with upper education are unemployed, highest level in decades.

    Why didn’t the person ask him how colleges are “selling” completely useless degrees and having the students graduate with what is now and will be useless skills.

    $25k-$60K for what? What a scam. This guy is just like Madoff, IMO.

    I paid $6800.00 for my education in 1990. 6.8K, not 68K! I have built and sold three companies in the high tech space and now run a 600 person global engineering firm that has seen 40% growth this year alone.

    I cant even find good people in the Boston area that actually have any experience. All i see is a bunch of middle managers who actually never did anything.  Companies don’t need managers, we need people who actually know something and have built something before. When i ask them how they added value to the bottom line of the business, 90% stare off into space. If you are not adding value, move along!

    I have many clients in the N.E. with over 30 open reqs for months and they cant find anybody to do the work. Everyone wants to be a manager.

    I blame the money hungry schools for allot of the issues as well as the people who think a Masters in Computer Science with little to no experience will get them a job at 150K day one, which is what they need to feed themselves and pay off the 375K (with interest) debt they are now in.

    The interviewer mentioned Google and Facebook hiring but cant find people. I can tell you since they are both my clients that the issue is the people graduating are not getting the right real world training, they are getting reading skills. Why do you think both of these companies are hiring thousands in China, Brazil, and India. India’s cost are getting close to US now so cost is not an issue any longer

    Very Disappointed!


    • Meghna Chakrabarti

      Hi Rob,

      Thank you for your comments. You made a number of excellent points. I did the interview today, and I hope you’ll allow me to address some of your concerns.

      I did, in fact, ask Mr. Aoun if generating revenue was a primary motivation. I did so after reading a quotation to him from a former administrator from the University of Ohio who said that universities are racing to raise more money, and to do so they have to enroll more students, so they’re looking at online and satellite campuses to raise enrollment. Mr. Aoun disagreed with the point and said revenue was not a motivation for Northeastern. I can understand that many people might disagree with his answer, but at least the question was raised.

      I mentioned Microsoft and Amazon when discussing Northeastern’s planned expansion to Seattle. The point here was that there’s a serious discussion going on in Seattle about the lack of qualified computer scientists coming out of the University of Washington. (The UW has to turn qualified applicants away because, like many state schools, budget crises prevent them from expanding their science and engineering programs.) Asking Mr. Aoun if private universities are taking advantage of the fiscal plight of public schools seemed a fair challenge. Again, his answer may not have satisfied listners.

      To your largest point about the cost of college. I couldn’t agree with you more. This is an incredibly important issue. I did ask Mr. Aoun to justify the $65k pricetag for a NU satellite campus MBA (as an example), versus what someone might get for $11k at the University of Phoenix (a private for-profit institution that has its own major problems). We could have spent an hour discussing the cost of college. And in fact, we have done numerous conversations that explicitly focus on the cost of higher ed. (An especially interesting one: Peter Thiel on why he thinks college isn’t worth it: http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/06/30/peter-theil-college).

      My point here is that we had a lot of ground to cover in today’s discussion. Spending a lot of time on the cost issue would have prevented us from hitting other points. However, I can guarantee you that we’ll return again and again to this issue.

      Thank you again for listening.

      • Bobo1976

        NU’s MBA is $60+ k for the whole degree, that is not the annual tuition rate. It is a respected AACSB accredited program. Phoenix’s MBA which has very little value in the job market is $39k according to their tuition calculator. And at An Ivy, the degree might cost you $100k+.

        • Rob

          I dont think the main issue is the total cost but what is needed in the market today and in the future. We have so many people out of work with major degrees in Boston and they will never find a job because they cant take a job for less money and work themselves the ladder. 

        • Meghna Chakrabarti

          Yes, that was how Mr. Aoun also answered the question. “Quality.” That was his answer. 

          Also, my understanding is that the NU MBA at the Charlotte satellite campus will cost close to $65k. The price of an MBA at NU’s main Boston campus is higher. 

  • sj

    i almost drove off the road listening to this latest scam from NU to make moneyDid they miss Pres Obama this week on the college debt crisis? its as big as the mortgage bubble and crisis. And the guilty ones are Univ Presidents like Auon. 60k/yr  ? for what kind of job ? students borrowing what they cant afford is reason we are in such a economic mess. Auon should be in jail with Madoff

  • jc

    Super lame idea. I have degrees from various Boston-area schools and I hate how the reputation of my studies is effected by bad choices from school leadership, long after graduation. How long until NEU becomes just another for-profit diploma mill or specialized, for-hire corporate training company? The last thing our country needs is more colleges and more options to spend too much for a degree. Dr. Aoun, please take care of the NEU brand and back off!

  • Jes

    Bo, who are you to judge Northeastern as an academically mediocre institution? Are you aware of any other national research universities that have climbed the US News rankings faster than Northeastern? Do mediocre institutions receive more than 43,000 applications to fill 2,800 expensive seats? Harvard and MIT are fine institutions, but academic snobbery adds no value to the discourse.

  • Brooke422

    Colleges and universities are businesses. They seek the same long term security as any of our businesses in the United States.  Unless there is a national plan for higher education (i.e. free for those of us that live here, haha…., the colleges and universities will be competing for business and students — and survival. In this economic climate, is it more admirable to adopt a strategy of reinvestment in the US economy (branch campuses that provide employment opportunities, etc.), or to seek such branches in foreign locations, such as China, India, and the Middle East (which has been the trend – an export mentality)?  Food for thought….

  • Go Huskies

    I think this could be great for Northeastern and Northeastern Alumni.  It increases our resources as alumni and creates further business opportunities across the country.  It will also create new jobs, achem, helping local economies, achem.

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