Monthly Archives: August 2011

Georgetown University’s Language Programs’ Funding Cut in Half

Mariah Byrne for The Hoya on July 18, 2011:

The recent $50 million reduction in the funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies has almost halved funding for some Georgetown language programs, forcing several heavy hitters on the Hilltop to speak out against the cuts.
For Georgetown’s National Resource Centers ─ the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Asian Studies program and the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies ─ there has been a 47 percent cut in funding across the board for 2012. Primarily operations and programming budgets have been slashed, but some initiatives have lost all funding for this coming school year.
The three centers grants for 2011 totaled $1.4 million, according to Vice President of Federal Relations Scott Fleming, and the centers’ directors say cutting this amount will be painful.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board Chuck Hagel, both Georgetown professors, published an editorial in Friday’s USA Today denouncing the $50 million reduction by the Department of Education for fiscal year 2012. The pair argued that such funding slashes have ominous prospects for the nation’s ability to effectively conduct diplomacy, obtain intelligence and counter terrorism.
According to Albright, Hagel and the program directors, the funding cutbacks ultimately represent a threat to the future of the federal government and international relations.
“If you don’t have that money for training, you’ll have a group of students who don’t know the language and who don’t know the culture,” CERES director Angela Stent said. “Of course, that will have an effect on national security issues.”
Albright and Hagel are not the first Georgetown faculty members to stand in opposition to the cuts. University President John J. DeGioia penned a letter with Indiana University President Michael McRobbie to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership asking the committee to restore funding to 2010 levels in the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.
“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,” he wrote..
The July 12 letter was signed by 86 university and college leaders.
The Office of Federal Relations is working conjunctively with President DeGioia and universities across the country to restore the funding.
“We’re talking about an uphill climb if you will,” Fleming said. “While they’re talking about cutting, we’re talking about restoring.”
Georgetown was originally awarded the money as the winner of three four-year grants, which designated its three programs as National Resource Centers. These centers offer courses and experiences in foreign languages, cultures and politics.
All three centers are currently experiencing cutbacks in the number of courses offered, the amount of financial support available for graduate students, the number of academic events held, the availability of research grants and the extent of the Outreach program, which provides training to teachers in underprivileged areas of D.C. and Maryland. Funding for Fulbright-Hays training grants for graduate students has been cancelled nationally.
“The cuts were painful,” Fleming said. “We’re trying to minimize the damage.”
This year Foreign Language Area Studies fellowships, full scholarships for graduate students, have been purposefully maintained by the Department of Education despite other significant funding reductions.
“It’s quite possible that if nothing is restored, [the federal government] may be severely cutting back on that,” Stent said.
Beneficiaries of the money allocated to Georgetown’s National Resource Centers have gone on to work in military attaches, embassies, the National Security Council and the Departments of State and Defense.
“This is cutting muscle and it’s cutting tissue. This is not cutting fat,” said Victor Cha, director of the National Resource Center East Asia. Cha previously was a beneficiary of Title VI of the Higher Education Act through which the federal funding is allocated and is also a former director of Asian Affairs for the National Security Council.
The funding provided by Title VI has helped the each center developed a variety of seminars, lecture series and degrees. It has also notably expanded the university’s Arabic language program into the largest in the United States. CCAS Director Osama Ali-Mershed argued that the funding cuts are coming a time when Arab politics and economics are becoming of integral importance to the United States.
“The point of the matter… is that the government cutsin higher education are taking place at a moment when the democratic uprisings in the Arab world should be dictating the opposite trend,” he said.

In June, the directors of the three centers met with the Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy in order to reinforce the importance of the funding to the university.
“We’re doing everything we can to make [the Department of Education] understand what the cuts mean,” Stent said.

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Indiana University Requests Congress Restore Its Foreign Language Funding

From Fox 19 news, August 6, 2011:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Indiana University officials say they’re looking for ways to fund foreign language instruction after federal officials cut their funding by $1.7 million. But they’re hoping Congress will see the importance of such programs and restore funding to 2010 levels.

IU President Michael McRobbie is 1 of more than 80 college and university presidents who’ve signed a letter urging Congress to restore the funds.

McRobbie tells The Herald-Times ( ) that IU’s programs have helped trained foreign language scholars, military personnel and public service leaders for generations. He says restoring the funding to 2010 levels is essential to continuing that work.

Alumni who’ve benefited from the programs include former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins.

Here is another article on IU’s request for foreign language funding from Congress (from Indiana Daily Student, August 6, 2011):

ederal 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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Language Cuts Endanger U.S.

The following was written by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Senator Chuck Hagel (USA Forum, July 15, 2011) in support of further foreign language programs:

Our years of work in diplomacy and national security have made very clear to both of us the critical need to maintain and expand the cadre of Americans who have studied the history and politics of countries who affect our well-being. Specifically, the United States’ ability to both confront challenges and exploit opportunities relies heavily on Americans being able to understand and speak less commonly taught languages.

Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Pashto, Farsi and Swahili are of obvious importance to addressing prominent challenges facing us today, but the need is not limited to those.

We believe that a grievous last-minute mistake was made when funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies was cut for this fiscal year. In the context of billions and even trillions of cuts being discussed, a $50 million reduction sounds insignificant. But this particular $50 million cut from the Department of Education’s budget amounted to a 40% reduction in the relatively small account that supports these programs at higher education institutions across the U.S. This is a dramatic cut that will have long-lasting and serious consequences — it not only threatens the nation’s diplomatic, intelligence, and national security capacities, but also our ability to maximize our competitiveness in global markets. This cut was a last-minute decision made with the specter of a government shutdown hanging over it.

Troubling shortfalls
This cut is one that our national interests demand be reversed before the damage is too great. Future budget decisions regarding international education efforts need to be made in light of the documented shortages of language-proficient workers that hinder the work of critical federal agencies.
In 2002, the Government Accountability Office (at the time, known as the General Accounting Office), reviewed the use of foreign language skills at the U.S. Army, the State Department, the Foreign Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce, and the FBI, and reported significant and troubling shortfalls, many of them “in hard-to-learn languages from the Middle East and Asia.”
The report noted that “agency officials stated that these shortfalls have adversely affected agency operations and hindered U.S. military, law enforcement, intelligence, counterterrorism and diplomatic efforts.” The report also cited diplomatic and intelligence officials’ specific comments about the shortages having “weakened the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking.”

While federal agencies are indeed working to meet their language needs, they are chasing a moving target as regions posing threats evolve, as do areas of opportunity. Furthermore, the 2002 GAO report’s point that technology advances “allow the collection of growing amounts of information” is an even greater factor today.
A threat to the system
The modest funding for International Education and Foreign Language Studies is vital to maintaining and enhancing our critical workforce needs. The institutional capacity on university campuses across the nation that exists today has taken decades to build and would be impossible to easily recapture once these programs are slashed. These cuts threaten that capacity.

Former students in programs supported by this funding have gone on to distinguished careers in the U.S. military, in various intelligence agencies, and in our diplomatic corps. Among those whose educations have benefited from these programs are former secretary of Defense Robert Gates, James Collins, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, and former representative David Obey. Others are defense attaches in U.S. embassies around the world, national intelligence officers and leaders in international organizations and NGOs, as well as private sector companies representing the United States abroad.

Today, only 5% of post-secondary students in the U.S. who are studying foreign languages are enrolled in courses on non-European languages despite the fact that 85% of the world’s population speaks those other languages.

When 18- to 24-year-olds were surveyed by National Geographic five years ago, the magazine documented an abysmal grasp of basic world geography. In order to work effectively with the world’s fastest-growing economies, as well as the countries with the highest populations of young people and those that present the greatest security challenges to the U.S. today, we must ensure that we expand the numbers of Americans who understand these regions and speak their languages.

As President Dwight Eisenhower said when he signed the National Defense Education Act in 1958, this initiative “will do much to strengthen our American system of education so that it can meet the broad and increasing demands imposed upon it by the considerations of basic national security.”

What was true during the Cold War is more critical in today’s global society, and demands that we restore funding to our international education programs.

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