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McRobbie co-authors letter to Congress urging restoration of funds for foreign language programs




Federal funding for international education and foreign language studies programs was unexpectedly cut in the final round of 2011 budget preparations, resulting in a 40 percent reduction this year.

Now, IU President Michael McRobbie has co-authored a letter with Georgetown University President J. DeGioia urging Congress to restore $50 million in cuts to the Department of Education’s HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs.

The letter was signed by more than 80 other college and university presidents across the country, including seven other Big Ten universities and prominent schools like Columbia, Stanford and Princeton.

“Continuing these levels in Fiscal Year 2012 would seriously damage our nation’s world-class international education infrastructure, and thus weaken the expertise and knowledge important to our nation’s ability to meet economic, global and security challenges,” the presidents wrote in the letter.

They are requesting the funding be restored to the 2010 levels of $125 million in the 2012 budget.

For the last 50 years, the federal government has funded educational programs that focused on providing elementary, middle, high school and college students with programs that provide foreign culture and language training.

In 2001, Congress authorized a series of improvements to Title VI and Fulbright programs after 9/11 revealed a need for enhancing foreign language and culture fluency.

Because of this, universities like IU now teach languages like Pashto, which is used throughout Afghanistan but was not previously taught in any U.S. university. Title VI universities make up half of the total undergraduate enrollment in these lesser taught languages.

IU has nine Title VI programs, which is among the highest concentration of Title VI programs in the country. The funding cuts caused a $1.7 million decrease in this funding for the 2011-12 school year.

IU offers courses in more than 80 foreign languages with 50 being taught in any given semester. Title VI supports African studies, Central Asian languages, Middle Eastern cultures and international business education and research.

Additionally, IU faculty members offer language training to Indiana National Guard soldiers who are being deployed to Afghanistan. When former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates studied at IU, he learned foreign languages from Title VI programs.

“Our nation continues to face a dangerously short supply of Americans with in-depth knowledge of world regions and fluency in foreign languages and their cultures,” the presidents wrote.

“We hope to work with you to ensure that Title VI and Fulbright-Hays funding for FY 2012 and beyond enhances, not stifles, our ability to address these issues by preparing the nation for 21st century global challenges.”

Jake New

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