This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.
The public debate about what to include in an economic stimulus package has focused mostly on tangible improvements to the nation's infrastructure, and with good reason. Critical resources such as roads, Internet connections and the power grid have suffered and deteriorated from a lack of investment.
Yet the get-real and get-to-work speech President Barack Obama made at his inaugural suggests he sees the nation's economic recovery in broader terms. Good.
"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."
Fulfilling this vision of a knowledge and innovation-based economy rests firmly on nurturing learning and research. That in turn rests on nurturing high-quality universities that focus their resources on educating people and solving tricky societal problems, such as global warming.
North Carolina is out in front on that score. It has shrewdly invested in a system of 16 public universities, including five research campuses. UNC Charlotte is among them. It's also kept tuition rates for residents among the lowest in the nation.
Yet the state's universities, along with its 58 community colleges, are struggling with the effects of the economic downturn. North Carolina's budget shortfall could reach $2 billion or more.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.