What the Administration Missed About Title VI and Fulbright-Hays

The Trump Administration’s budget request is nearly uniform in its attack on funding streams that support humanities research, teaching, and programming. The call to eliminate funding for the Department of Education’s International Education Programs (known as Title VI and Fulbright-Hays) is in some ways the most menacing because Congress has tended to be less supportive of these programs in recent years than many of our other priorities.

Title VI and Fulbright-Hays play an essential role in ensuring that students in the United States have the opportunity learn about the history, culture, and languages of all world regions. At a modest cost of just over $72 million per year, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays support:

  • Around 100 National Resource Centers across the country on world regions and languages
  • Stipends that enable students to study less commonly taught languages
  • Development of instructional materials for less commonly taught languages
  • Outreach to K-12 schools across the country, leading to the internationalization of K-12 curricula
  • The internationalization of business school curricula
  • Research grants for graduate students, scholars, and teachers to travel abroad to conduct cutting-edge research and deepen their language expertise.

Despite the importance of ensuring that U.S. citizens have the capacity to engage productively across international borders, the President’s budget request called for the defunding of these programs.

The administration’s ostensible reason for these cuts came in the Department of Education’s Congressional Budget Justification, which was released shortly after the president’s budget. As is the case for the NEH, the Department of Education’s Congressional Budget Justification provides Congress with the rationale for the administration’s various funding requests. These documents, while originating from agencies and departments, must reflect administration priorities.

The Budget Justification recognizes “the critical need for our Nation to have a readily available pool of international area and advanced language experts for economic, foreign affairs, and national security purposes.” Nonetheless, it contends that it is unclear whether this goal is consistent with the Department’s “core mission.” In addition, the justification claims that achieving this goal would be better accomplished by an agency whose primary mission is U.S. national security.

Despite the brief nod to multiple uses for international and foreign language expertise, the assertion that these programs would be better suited to a national security agency fails to recognize how widespread our need for such expertise actually is.

Success in the international marketplace is dependent on employees who understand foreign languages, markets, cultures, politics, laws, and societies. Further, we confront a variety of challenges that are global in nature: from pandemics to food security and threats to communications, transportation, and financial systems.

Title VI and Fulbright-Hays ensure that students who ultimately pursue science, agriculture, medicine, nursing, engineering, law, cyber security, aviation administration, and many other fields have international, cultural, and language skills. A solely military-focused program would not be well-positioned to address the full range of challenges to U.S. interests abroad and ensure American success in the 21st century.

Even if we accept the premise that these programs would be better implemented by a national-security focused department or agency, the administration does not actually propose moving the programs to another department consistent with that aim. Rather, they propose simply eliminating the programs without replacement, which would damage goals that they themselves acknowledge in their budget request to be “critical” for “economic, foreign affairs, and national security purposes.”


The Congressional Landscape

Congress will now begin an appropriations process to determine the level of funding for all discretionary programs, including Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. It is under no obligation to adopt the administration’s request. That said, Senate appropriators have shown uneven support for these programs in recent years. Last summer, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, following the lead of the Obama Administration, proposed level funding for Title VI but a major cut to Fulbright-Hays, which would have prevented the funding of any new grants. The House, meanwhile, proposed level funding for both programs. When Congress finally passed an omnibus spending package for FY 2017, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays received level funding, in keeping with the House numbers. Given this precarious support, it is crucial that Members of Congress continue to hear from their constituents about these programs.


What You Can Do

You can write or call your Members of Congress, here, with just a couple of clicks to urge them to fully fund Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. It just takes 30 seconds!

Want to do more? Check out our Take Action page for more ways to advocate.

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