Dr. Welch says that with the changing climate where higher education funding is likely to be in short supply and nationally enrollment is expected to fall, AState is looking to attract more students through a variety of program offerings and enter into more public-private partnerships to generate new revenue.
The Mexico campus is expected to create direct revenue from tuition charged to students there but is expect to lead to other partnerships with the corporations based in the area. If AState can develop relationships there those relationships could lead to other opportunities. The campus is expected to also provide study abroad opportunities for students at the Jonesboro campus. The medical campus partnership with New York Institute of Technology was sought not just for the potential to generate tuition revenue. Being able to increase research at AState as well as the potential for partnerships with medical firms made the agreement desirable. AState further benefits by trying to meet a need in the Delta region as well as attracting better qualified students for undergraduate degrees.
Dr. Welch says the merger with Mid-South Community College will expand the offerings of Arkansas State, increase the university’s presence in the Memphis metro area and is expected to result in more students from Mid-South completing a bachelor’s degree in Jonesboro.
AState is pursuing the hotel and convention center project to generate more revenue and AState will expand its academic offerings in Jonesboro to include hospitality training. There is no definite timeline on the hotel/convention center project Welch says but he says the project is moving forward.
Dr. Welch states that the diversity of in how each campus is managed is a strength for the system. Each campus has unique programming to meet local needs but can use those offerings to strengthen other campuses.
AState is unusual among universities because of the pairing of professional education with workforce development and technical education.
Dr. Welch noted that Arkansas is a historically under-educated state. Being able get people quickly into workforce with a higher skill level is important to the economic development of the state. He further noted that AState’s ability to offer businesses the ability to partner with a university that can provide professional and technical training allows AState to better serve the needs of businesses in the state.
Arkansas State began with a technical focus rather than as a broad offerings university. Welch stated that shifting the Jonesboro campus to being more selective in admissions is an appropriate change given the number of four year and two year schools in the state, taking different roles among those schools provides more variety. Welch said that being more selective means students admitted to the Jonesboro campus are students more likely to seek advanced degrees, while the community colleges can meet the needs of those students not granted freshmen admission in Jonesboro develop as students and be better prepared when completing a bachelor’s degree at AState.
Asked about the role of athletics, Dr. Welch stated that people often form their opinions of a university based on athletics. He added that athletics creates awareness of a university among potential students and helps draw the students and community together.