Northeastern’s newest survey woke up academia today, reiterating the ever-present, looming, yet feared, truth: the higher education system needs to change, and it needs to change now.

The national Innovation in Higher Education opinion poll, conducted for Northeastern by FTI Consulting, revealed that despite individuals’ belief that higher education will be what maintains the nation’s competitiveness, the system must innovate for the United States to keep that global control. Nine in 10 respondents between the ages of 18 and 30 believe American higher education needs to change, according to Northeastern News.

The value of college was called into question. Only 39 percent of those surveyed said the system is providing an “excellent” or “good” value for the money, while 60 percent pegged its value as “fair” or “poor.” Considering the average student loan debt is hovering around $27,000, the qualms come as no surprise. Eighty-six percent of respondents called paying for college “a big obstacle,” while another 64 percent said “concerns about college costs caused a close friend or family member to postpone or forego attending college.”

Online education was touted as an alternative. Sixty-one percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 30 said they believe an online degree provides a similar quality of education, while another 68 percent claimed an online degree will be just as recognized and accepted by employers as a traditional degree within the next five to seven years.

“In overwhelming numbers, [respondents] are telling us that the system of today will not meet the challenges of tomorrow,” said President Joseph Aoun to Northeastern News. “These findings are a wake-up call for those of us in higher education to renew the social compact we have always had with Americans by innovating across multiple dimensions.”

President Aoun helped present the survey results today at a Northeastern University/Brookings Institution forum in Washington, D.C., only a week after calling massive open online education into question. He posted an editorial in the Boston Globe, addressing universities’ value proposition. Aoun wrote:

As more students wonder why they should pay for a campus-based college education when they can take online courses for low or no cost instead, colleges and universities will have to demonstrate the benefit they provide more powerfully than ever. Those that can differentiate themselves and prove their “value-add” will succeed — and those that can’t will fail.

After seeing the survey results, Aoun’s point couldn’t be more valid. Schools should have  started innovating yesterday, even if it was just by introducing a hybrid learning model that provides a mix of online and traditional classroom learning—a model 87 percent of respondents called “a good option for working people interested in going back to school.”

Although Aoun still sounds skeptical of innovation in higher education, this survey will hopefully have opened his eyes, as well as other shakers in the system. For additional survey results, click here.