In danger of losing around $3 million of State Department funding, the Fulbright program’s future is tied up in budget negotiations on Capitol Hill.
Allocations for the program, which provides grants to U.S. citizens to study, teach and conduct research abroad and for non-U.S. citizens to come to the states, were decreased by $16.4 million in 2011, giving it a $237.4 million budget for this year. A bill currently being considered in the House of Representatives would reduce the budget for next year by a further 10.1 percent, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Such a reduction could affect the more than 50 Georgetown students who apply for scholarships from the program every year.
According to Maryam Henson, associate director of the Office of the Fellowship Secretary, 56 students applied, 22 students won Fulbrights and about 40 faculty members received support from the program in 2011. This year 55 students and graduates are hoping to win grants.
Though the program is primarily a function of the American government, in the past, several foreign governments also allocated money for Fulbright projects.
Chile led the way in 2010 with $8.2 million with Germany, Brazil and Spain following closely behind.
But, according to Henson, many foreign governments do not have the capacity to provide Fulbright scholars with the necessary financial aid and will not be able to make up for the U.S. cuts.
“Some foreign countries that are not able to support grants without U.S. government support may reduce the number of grants they make available, while other countries may be forced to cancel the grant entirely,” she said.
If the government continues with cutbacks, Henson said the program could become much more competitive and reduce the opportunities for undergraduate students to take part in it.
Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming said that the university will continue to push for government assistance.
But he added that he is unsure of what Congress will decide about the future of the Fulbright program.
“It’s not clear at this point how the House will react to this. It won’t be resolved for another six to seven weeks,” he said.
The bill has also caught the attention of the Obama administration. Though the president’s office pushed for increased funding for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which runs the Fulbright program, it also lobbied for a smaller cut of $1 million from Fulbright funds.
Fleming added that the program has fared well compared to other educational programs whose budgets were slashed by the government, such as Pell grants.
“We … all think, ‘Wow we dodged a bullet,’ because it is a relatively small cut,” he said.