Urge the State Department Not to Cut Fulbright Funding


Target: Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

Goal: Stop the impending cuts to the Fulbright Program

According to the State Department’s own website, the Fulbright Program is “the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” According to its founder, Senator J. William Fulbright, “educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations.” And yet this venerable, 68-year-old program that was passed into law with unanimous bipartisan support of the Senate, is now on the State Department’s chopping block.

President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 includes cuts of $30.5 million from Fulbright. This unprecedented, under-the-radar cut in funding amounts to about 13 percent of the program’s budget. While this amount of money is chump change in Washington, for a program that is already as low-budget as Fulbright this amounts to a significant reduction in the scholarships they are able to give and the work they are able to do.

According to a spokesperson for the State Department, the cuts were necessary to make some “strategic shifts” and do some “short-term targeted programs.” Along with the cuts to Fulbright, funding was added for new programs in Southeast Asia and in Africa to “increase outreach” to young leaders. These programs, rather than being two-way exchanges for purposes of sharing education and knowledge, would be unilateral projects, presumably for the purpose of cultivating American interests abroad. What this ultimately amounts to is the Obama administration prioritizing high-level foreign policy over civilian cultural exchange.

Over the years, more than 325,000 students, scholars and teachers have become Fulbright Alumni. These include 53 Nobel Prize winners, 80 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 current or former heads of state, and thousands of academics who have shared their international experience with institutions back home. They come from 155 different countries and are frequently joint-funded by their country of study. Cutting this program sends the message that the U.S. is no longer interested in mutual understanding or free exchange of knowledge. Tell Secretary Ryan that you do not support that kind of message.


Dear Secretary Ryan,

The Fulbright Program has been a force for educational exchange for 68 years. During that time, it has risen to become the most prestigious and widely recognized international exchange program in the world, actively fostering bilateral relationships and important dialogue between governments, academic institutions and other organizations worldwide.

In this time of global upheaval, programs like Fulbright provide a much needed path towards mutual understanding and appreciation, which are gravely lacking in many areas of ethnic strife and partisan violence. Please do not shrink a program that has proven to be so valuable in cultivating international leaders in peace and diplomacy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: fdecomite via Flickr

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