Turnover Proves to Be Both Boon, Bane to ASU's Charles Welch

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 12:00 am  

Charles Welch, president of the ASU System. (Photo by Kevin Pieper.)

Attracting and then working with first-generation college students — a group Welch counted himself among when he studied at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in the 1990s — can be expensive, since the support services the students often need, such as remedial classes, aren’t cheap.

State spending on higher education has stayed flat for the last several years, and costs haven’t shrunk. In 1991, 71 percent of ASU’s budget came from the state, Welch said. Now, 45 percent does, he said.

ASU has to raise private funds and look for federal money, but also push for more state spending on higher ed.

Students who fail to graduate from college tend to be more expensive to the state overall, costing more for health care and being twice as likely to be unemployed as college graduates, Welch said.

“As a state moving forward, we have to view higher education as a cure for possible ills in the state,” Welch said. “I’m hopeful. I know that our governor understands it.”

ASU works to make higher education accessible across the state, maintaining campuses in Beebe, Jonesboro, Newport and Mountain Home and five additional instructional locations, as well as offering online classes. The ASU System currently has 22,000 students enrolled, with 14,000 of them in Jonesboro.

Besides physical accessibility, Welch said, he is looking at ways to make college more affordable for students by, for example, reassessing the cost of the university’s utilities, limiting out-of-state travel, using part-time labor and other efficiencies.  

“The thing that drives me is the knowledge of how higher education can transform a family forever,” Welch said. “Higher education has given me a life that I never dreamed imaginable.”

 

 

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