November 14, 2023

Charles L. Welch, President of the Arkansas State University System, Named New AASCU President and CEO

Welch will take the helm of a dynamic membership association representing 350 public colleges, universities, and higher education systems, serving more than 3 million students.

Charles L. Welch, II

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WASHINGTON (November 14, 2023) — The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), today announced Charles L. Welch as its new president and CEO, effective January 15, 2024. Welch succeeds Mildred García who led the association for more than five years before becoming chancellor of the California State University in October.

Welch is no stranger to AASCU, having served as president of AASCU member Arkansas State University System since April 2011 and as chair of the AASCU Board of Directors from 2019–2021, including being elected to a second term during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is also past president of Henderson State University (AR).

“America’s regional public colleges and universities are on the frontlines of transforming public higher education, driving civic engagement, and contributing to thriving local communities,” said Welch. “It’s an honor to join AASCU at a time when regional comprehensive universities are poised to make a critical impact. They serve our country’s fastest-growing demographics—from students of color and first-generation students to adult learners and transfer students—and create pathways to social and economic mobility. I look forward to working collaboratively with the board, the AASCU staff, and our dedicated members to continue the vital work of telling the story of public higher education—and moving our sector forward.”

A native of Jonesboro, AR, Welch is a first-generation college student and the first member of his extended family to receive an advanced degree. He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Arkansas, a Master of Arts in political management from The George Washington University (DC), and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Welch possesses extensive experience and proven leadership in higher education. Welch is past president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges and served as chairman of the board of the Arkansas Association of Public Universities. He is vice chair of the American Academic Leadership Institute Board of Directors and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. He serves as executive sponsor of AASCU’s New Presidents Academy and Emerging Leaders Program. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, is a former board member for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches and was inducted into the Arkansas Boys State Hall of Fame.

He is co-chair of the Executive Council of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. He previously served as chancellor of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope-Texarkana, vice chancellor for academic affairs at Arkansas State University-Beebe, and dean of university studies at the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College. Welch also worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has served as an instructor of education and political science at three different colleges in Arkansas.

“We are thrilled to welcome Chuck Welch as the new president and CEO of AASCU,” said Ronald S. Rochon, chair of the AASCU Board of Directors, president of the University of Southern Indiana, and co-chair of the AASCU presidential search committee. “He stood out for his exceptional vision, strategic mindset, and deep commitment to AASCU’s mission and values. We believe his dynamic leadership will drive our association to new heights in service to the 3.2 million diverse students AASCU educates.”

“In many ways, we are at a tipping point in higher education,” said Heidi M. Anderson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, immediate past chair of the AASCU Board of Directors, and co-chair of the AASCU presidential search committee. “Now, more than ever, we need strong leadership and a valued voice at AASCU to represent a diverse and important cross section of students in U.S. higher education. Dr. Welch received the board’s unanimous support. I’m delighted by his appointment and pledge my support to Dr. Welch to help him represent all of us.”

The regional comprehensive institutions AASCU serves are at the leading edge of delivering affordable, high-quality public higher education in the United States. Its membership comprises 350 state colleges, universities, and higher education systems, including 95% of the nation’s public historically Black colleges and universities and 64% of public four-year Hispanic-serving Institutions. AASCU institutions have an average annual tuition of less than $9,000 for in-state, full-time undergraduates, providing an affordable education to more than 3 million students and awarding 43% of public, four-year bachelor’s degrees conferred in the U.S. annually.

Welch joins the association during a period of growth and dynamism in AASCU’s history. Under his predecessor Mildred García’s leadership, the association successfully raised more than $30 million in foundation grants and awards, including a competitive multi-million, multi-year award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of only six awardees of over 250 applicants. The association stands as an effective and well-known advocacy voice on issues related to college access and affordability and equity in higher education, working to shape federal policy and regulations on behalf of member colleges and universities and the students they serve.

Its highly regarded leadership development programs for aspiring, new, and veteran presidents and chancellors—as well as other senior administrators in the academy—help leaders gain critical skills and strategies to navigate complex higher education landscapes. To date, more than 600 campus leaders have participated in AASCU leadership development programs since 2020. And over the past two decades, AASCU’s American Democracy Project has built a national network of nearly 300 institutions that create and promote civic engagement on campuses and whose work deepens the impact that public higher education institutions have on preparing students who are empowered to be engaged citizens and lead in the future of our democracy.

A devoted father and husband, Welch and his wife Mandy have been married 23 years and are parents of three daughters: Wheatley Grace, Emma Caroline, and Ava Claire.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Photo of Dr. Welch is available upon request. Please contact


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 350 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise.