HR 1 and the Future of International Education

The memo below on budget cuts in the US Congress was circulated on Cairo Scholars today. The proposed budget cuts detailed below have profound effects on study abroad, cultural exchange, peace work and critical language teaching in the Egypt, the Middle East and beyond. These reductions effect both American students, professors and scholars seeking opportunities abroad, and also foreign students, professors and scholars wishing to enrich American institutions with their wealth of experience. It also represents a drastic reduction in resources and opportunities for American students starting at the kindergarten level to interact with the greater world.

In this era of globalization, interconnectivity and interdependence, we should be increasing our understanding of the rest of the world. I’ve seen photos of Egyptians holding placards in solidarity with striking government workers in Wisconsin, and government workers in Wisconsin holding placards in solidarity with Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Bahrain. This is how the world works now, and failing to prepare our youth for that reality will, in the long run, worsen our economic, political and cultural power far more than the deficit it reduces.

Dear MESA members,

Many of you will have been immersed in the news of the extraordinary events taking place in the Middle East over the last month or so. This update is to bring to your attention some important developments happening in the U. S. Congress that could affect programs in foreign language and area studies. A number of programs funded by the U.S government have been targeted for either major budget cuts or complete elimination.

Thinking that area studies specialists may be concerned about this possibility, I pass on information about a few programs particularly relevant to the broad disciplinary interests of MESA members.

Background
The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1 (H.R.1) last week. What is H.R.1? It is the 2011 full-year continuing appropriations Act. It would extend the current 2011 fiscal year funding which expires March 4, 2011.The Senate returns from recess next Monday (February 28) to begin work on its version of a budget for the remainder of FY11. Many things can happen in the negotiations between the House and the Senate.

In H.R. 1:

  • State Department international exchange programs would receive a 21 per cent cut, or a reduction to $501.3 million from the current funding level of $635 million. Two examples of programs funded under this program (http://exchanges.state.gov/scho-pro.html) are the Fulbright Program for Scholars serving scholars and the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program serving undergraduate and graduate students.
  • All funding from the United States Institute of Peace ($42.6 million) would be eliminated. http://www.usip.org USIP funds have supported hundreds of scholars and practitioners through its Senior Fellows program and hundreds of students through its Peace Scholars program. Its Grant Program has provided over 2,000 awards since 1986, a majority of which have supported the work of individual scholars around the world.
  • Funding for the K-12 Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) would be eliminated ($26.9 million). This is the Education Department’s only dedicated grant program for K-12 foreign language education.
  • Funding for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education–FIPSE (including the International Consortia Programs) would be cut entirely ($58 million).
  • $350 million from the National Science Foundation would be cut. This could affect research funds for such disciplines and fields as Anthropology, Election Studies, Geography, Linguistics and Political Science.
  • For the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), H.R. 1 provides a FY 2011 budget of $145 million. This figure represents a $22 million (13%) cut from the agency’s FY 2010 enacted budget. Examples of NEH grants are the NEH Research Fellowships, NEH Summer Institutes and Seminars for College and University Teachers, Collaborative Research Awards, Scholarly Editions and Translations Awards, etc.: http://www.neh.gov/news/recentawards.html
  • Funding for the Grants and Administration portion of the National Endowment for the Arts would be reduced by $20.5 million. NEA has funded Literature Fellowships for Translation Projects.

Finally, although H.R 1 did not propose any changes to the funding levels for The Higher Education Act, Title VI and Fulbright-Hays 102(b)(6), changes may come up in next week’s Senate deliberations or in negotiations with the House. Funded at $125.881 million in FY 2010, these programs represent less than 0.2 percent of the U.S. Department of Education’s discretionary budget. A cost-effective investment, this federal-university partnership stimulates substantial additional funding by universities and foundations.

Sincerely,
Amy W. Newhall
Executive Director

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