U.S. Shifts Student Exchange Program Funding to Align with Policy Goals


As the U.S. moves to align the funding of some of the State Department-run student exchange programs with diplomatic policy, other well-known programs may see funding cuts. Among the most notable programs seeing funding cuts is the Fulbright Program.

Under the President’s proposed 2015 budget, student exchange programs like Young African Leaders Initiative — and similar programs targeting other areas of the world — would see funding increases. The Young African Leaders Initiative, for example, would receive $20 million, approximately 1.6% more than last year, while the Fulbright Program would receive $204.2 million, a 13% decrease, according to the NY Times Chronicle.

The move has been criticized by Fulbright alumni, who note that the Fulbright Program is the departments flagship student exchange program, noting that it could send a negative message for foreign governments that help fund it.

Evan Ryan, the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said that these funding changes represent a significant change in diplomatic strategy. “The real impetus for these programs is to make sure that exchanges are really tied to foreign policy and foreign-policy goals, making sure that they can be responsive to where we are in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish,” she said.

Ian Whilhelm of the NY Times writes, “The fellowship for young Africans is the centerpiece of the new thinking. Its goal is to develop a network of civic, nonprofit and business leaders who in part will be a bulwark against Islamic extremism and political instability across Africa. In many ways, the program is the opposite of Fulbright, or at least of the well-known Fulbright scholar program, in which American and foreign participants spend up to a year abroad teaching or conducting research.”

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