University of Iowa

Cuts to Federal International Education Programs

July 16th, 2011

Unprecedented cuts were made by Congress to International Education and Foreign Language Studies for the current fiscal year.  While a $50 million reduction may not seem terribly large in the context of a federal budget of more than $3 trillion, this particular cut amounts to a 40% decrease in funding for these areas, affecting U.S. Department of Education programs in particular.  These reductions take us back to pre-2001 funding levels at a time when, more than ever, we need to prepare our students for the global challenges ahead.  Insiders tell me that the budgetary climate for international education programs is the bleakest they have ever seen.

The particular cuts to which I refer, if funding is not restored in the coming fiscal year, will significantly and negatively impact our ability to respond to challenges to national security in the future, and our ability to engage with communities around the world to improve health for all and to grow the economy here at home.  The modest funding in question offers opportunities for Americans to learn languages such as Arabic, Korean, Farsi, and Chinese, among others; and it provides U.S. students with crucial knowledge about world regions and cultures.  Former secretary of Defense Robert Gates, not to mention the many others who work to ensure our safety around the world, benefited from the programs that have been cut this year.  Even more grave, of course, is the governmental default that is currently looming in Congress.  But once Congress has addressed the debt ceiling, these buts deserve to be reconsidered for the benefit of all Americans.

Leaders in higher education around the country are calling for these cuts to be reversed in the coming fiscal year.  I hope you will add your voice to those of us who believe that preparing Americans for the global future is an imperative.  Please take the time to write your senators and represenatives.

Downing Thomas
Downing Thomas