It is an exclusive group. Of the country's 900 or so universities, only 82 have endowments of more than $1 billion. An endowment is what a university has in investments, whose returns affect how much income the university has at its disposal for operating money.
N.C. State University appears from the latest figures to be moving toward membership in that club. Duke, Wake Forest and UNC-Chapel Hill are the only North Carolina schools in it. NCSU has about $885 million in its endowment and has a big fundraising campaign in progress.
Universities cannot and should not be measured in dollars alone. But in NCSU's case, the milestone is a tribute to leaders dating back to the late Chancellor John T. Caldwell and right to the present with Chancellor Randy Woodson, a down-to-earth and popular leader.
N.C. State alums have long said, however, that while the school has remained true to its mission of helping average North Carolinians in agriculture and the sciences (though the university has an excellent liberal arts program) it hasn't had the affluent alumni base high-dollar schools such as Duke and Wake Forest have or the legacy alumni base of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Clearly, however, alums have responded with more giving, and the investment markets have responded, thank goodness, with more return. So the threshold nears that will vault N.C. State into a league it deserves. That will fuel the university's ever-broadening and nationally prominent scientific research and also help it keep on keeping faith with the residents of the state to which it has been so important.