The jig is finally up. After years of record-setting upward progress in the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, Northeastern University has finally dropped a couple spots, down to 47. It is unlikely that Northeastern will have the opportunity to make significant strides up the rankings as it has over the last decade with strengthening competition and real-world barriers – NU will never compete academically with the Ivy League or the tens of non-Ivy institutions with decades more time spent atop the academic mountain.

This small slide down the ladder means it’s time to end the myopic focus on rankings and start improving the Northeastern experience in more impactful ways. Much like the shrewdest general managers in professional sports, Northeastern must begin to evaluate areas in higher education where others have not identified critical value, and make strides in those areas to stay ahead of its peers.

One area in particular is the cost of tuition, which has spiraled out of control. Early in its history, Northeastern provided affordable education and peerless co-op opportunities for its students, serving its community and reflecting the class mobility that was once a hallmark of the United States. As the school grew, changes necessary for its survival were made – admissions standards were raised dramatically, out-of-state and non-US recruitment became a prime focus and cost increased, all with the goal of establishing Northeastern as a premier destination for academic talent, both in the student body and in the professorship. The university is now healthier than at any point in its history.

But now that the Northeastern name has been established, it’s time to give back. Drastic reductions in tuition will allow Northeastern to, once again, serve a middle class which is excluded from need-based financial aid and completely reliant on student loans. The school can begin to look back at its historical values and incorporate them into its modern operations, finally emphasizing what so many years of rankings-centric policies have not: Northeastern is a unique university with a unique experience unavailable at other schools, providing a campus experience in the heart of Boston with unmatched experiential learning opportunities. Reducing tuition to make that experience available to all students is a fundamental advantage that would propel Northeastern to the vanguard of higher education. NU is not, nor should it aspire to be, another Boston University or Boston College. Northeastern can and should be more.

-Marcus Moché graduated from Northeastern’s College of Engineering in 2010.

Photo Courtesy Wikipidea, Creative Commons