International-Education Programs Face Challenges in President's Budget

April 10, 2013

Under President Obama's budget for the 2014 fiscal year, announced on Wednesday, international-education programs would face a gloomy outlook.

The U.S. State Department has requested $309.8-million, a $16.6-million drop from 2013, for academic programs. The Fulbright Program, its flagship academic-exchange effort, would receive $232.5-million, an increase of less than $1-million. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, which provides funds for overseas study to undergraduates who receive Pell Grants, would be cut by $2.2-million, to $10.8-million.

Sherif Barsoum, director of international student and scholar services at Vanderbilt University, said any cuts in the Gilman program would "make it even harder for our students to study abroad."

The department is also seeking a $5.9-million cut for the East-West Center, which focuses on cultural and academic exchange; it would receive $10.8-million. Since 2011, federal support for the center has been cut in half.

The Obama administration is asking for an increase in Title VI funds, which support university centers that conduct research on various regions of the world and foster the study of Bengali, Farsi, and other foreign languages that are rarely taught. The program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Education, would receive $73.5-million in 2014, a $6.9-million increase.

However, the administration did not seek to restore funds that were cut from Title VI in 2011, when it was reduced by some 40 percent. At the time, the move drew strong protests from universities.

In one bright spot, the administration called for increased support at the U.S. Agency for International Development, though by an unspecified amount, for applied research and science and technology programs that seek to create innovative ways to cut global poverty. Last year the agency announced a new program, the Higher Education Solutions Network, to support university research that improves foreign aid and generates solutions to problems facing the developing world.

Correction (4/11/2013, 4:12 p.m.): This article originally said incorrectly that the East-West Center is based at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. The center is adjacent to the university. The article has been updated.