Huge Cuts Proposed to Already Depleted International Education and Foreign Language Programs

What does it take to make sure that languages like Hindi, Javanese, Urdu, Ukrainian, and Swahili are taught consistently and effectively in the United States? And to provide opportunities for students to acquire expertise in international cultures to complement their language skills? And to support the training of specialists—from scholars to diplomats to aid workers—with advanced language and area studies training?

It takes the Department of Education’s international education and foreign languages programs, also known as Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. These are the cornerstone of our educational system’s capacity to provide instruction and research on over 200 less-commonly taught languages and on all regions of U.S. strategic interest. In 2007, a National Research Council study found that HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays “have served as the foundation for internationalization in higher education at modest cost, while stimulating substantial additional investment by universities themselves.” 

Despite the crucial role these programs play, in late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved, on party lines, a $25 million or 35% reduction to the Department of Education’s Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. The Senate’s proposed reduction comes after major cuts just five years ago, and if enacted, would amount to a $78.955 million or 63% decrease in funding since FY 2010.

Imposing the Senate committee’s proposed additional cuts to Title VI and Fulbright-Hays would further erode the world-class educational and research capacity that has been built and strengthened over several decades and which cannot be easily replaced.

Why did this happen?

The Senate’s proposed cut must be understood in the context of self-imposed discretionary spending caps (also known as sequestration) currently in place. In order to stay within these spending caps, appropriators have had to cut spending on average—leading them to offset increases with deeper cuts for some programs than for others. Congressional staff sources have indicated that the reduction to Title VI and Fulbright Hays was not the result of specific animosity towards these programs among Republican committee members but rather, a failure to see them as a priority given the funding constraints.

What happens next?

We need to change this perception and make clear to Members of Congress that Title VI and Fulbright-Hays is indeed a priority for many of their constituents and that training students and scholars in foreign language and international and area studies is a key national priority.

In October. Congress reached a budget agreement that raises discretionary spending caps over the next two years. Now, Appropriators in the House and Senate are negotiating FY 2016 funding levels for specific programs. We want to ensure that the House Appropriations Committee’s approved level funding for the Department of Education’s international education programs prevails in negotiations over the Senate’s number.

In collaboration with the Coalition for International Education, we are recommending that the final appropriations bill fund Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs at their FY 2015 levels, as provided by the House committee bill.

What can we do to preserve this funding?

You can tell your members of Congress directly that you support the work of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs to cultivate the deep language proficiency, historical knowledge, and cultural literacy that are critical to productive engagement with the world. Click here to send a message to your elected officials.  

Meanwhile, we at the National Humanities Alliance are reaching out directly to recipients of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays funding who are located in key congressional districts and working with them to meet with their members of Congress.

If you want to find out more ways to be involved in this campaign, please contact us at [email protected]!

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