Northeastern to partner with GE in new federal education innovation program

May 13, 2015 – The Behrakis Health Sciences Center as seen on May 13, 2015.

The Department of Education announced on Tuesday that Northeastern is one of only eight colleges and universities selected for a new federal initiative focused on building unique partnerships that lead to innovation in higher education as well as increased job readiness and more robust talent pipelines for industry.

Northeastern was named a site for the department’s Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships, or EQUIP, experiment. EQUIP aims to increase students’ access to innovative, high-quality, postsecondary education and spur innovative collaborations between universities and non-traditional education providers that equip more Americans with the skills required for the 21st century.

Through EQUIP, Northeastern will partner with General Electric to launch an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Advanced Manufacturing program. The program, which is expected to launch in the spring, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation—combining the global leadership of Northeastern in experiential education and GE in manufacturing. EQUIP also allows students to use federal financial aid funding for this innovative program.

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun praised the new alliance with GE in a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal, noting that employer partnerships are not new at Northeastern. Aoun cited the experiential nature of the model and the fact that it is based on Northeastern’s century-old co-op program, which has a track record of providing strong outcomes for Northeastern graduates.

Aoun, a leader in innovation in higher education, was present at EQUIP’s inception when he served as a featured speaker at a White House summit on innovation and quality in higher education in July 2015.

The advanced manufacturing degree program Northeastern and GE are developing aligns with a national imperative to prepare more citizens—particularly in critical areas in which advanced training is necessary—to fill the jobs of the future. A report released last year by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute noted that over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be created but 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap.

“I’m thrilled that students will soon have access to these innovative programs, developed in partnership with colleges and new providers, with the help of federal financial aid,” said Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “As these innovative programs continue to develop, it will be increasingly important to understand what an outcomes-based quality assurance system looks like for such programs. I am encouraged to see that these colleges, providers, and quality assurance entities have stepped forward to provide models for doing so.”

The partnership builds upon Northeastern’s continued focus of developing more flexible and innovative models of education that meet the needs of learners and industry partners. These include the range of graduate programs offered at the university’s network of regional campus, and specific initiatives. One is Level, Northeastern’s bootcamp program designed to equip professionals with in-demand data analytics skills. Another is ALIGN, a master’s degree program designed for professionals who want to transition into high-growth industries but don’t have the necessary undergraduate degrees or work experience to match those industries.

The program’s curriculum will reflect the state-of-the-art manufacturing at GE and across the industry, while a robust suite of experiential learning offerings will allow students to apply their knowledge in a variety of real-world manufacturing environments. Northeastern faculty will provide online course instruction, while GE practitioners will assess students’ performance through performance-based assessments and the students’ experiential learning engagements.

An accelerated short-term certificate will be stackable into the Bachelor of Science in Advanced Manufacturing and other majors within Northeastern’s Lowell Institute School, which focuses on STEM degrees.

The American Council on Education, which has substantial experience certifying nontraditional employee training programs, will serve as the quality assurance entity, or QAE, for the program. GE employees and others interested in the program will be able to apply for federal student financial aid.

“I appreciate the Department of Education’s decision to select this cutting-edge collaboration as an EQUIP experimental site,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “We are pleased to join with Northeastern and GE in such an important effort to expand access to higher education and increase the ways nontraditional learners have of gaining postsecondary degrees and credentials.”

The program will pilot in spring 2017 with 20-50 GE employees, and then roll out in full for both GE employees and the public in fall 2017. It is being co-developed by Northeastern and GE, with an eye toward meeting the specific and emerging demands of the manufacturing industry.

Participants would earn their bachelor’s degrees within three years. Tuition would be $10,000 annually for each of the three years, though participants with prior college experience could finish in as little as one-and-a-half years.