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Last modified: Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indiana University takes leadership role in effort to restore federal funding to vital foreign language and culture programs

July 28, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie has reached out to congressional leaders, urging them to restore federal funding for international education and foreign language studies programs cut from the current fiscal year budget.

Michael McRobbie

Michael McRobbie

Print-Quality Photo

In a letter co-authored by McRobbie and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, and signed by more than 80 college and university presidents from around the country, McRobbie called on Congress to restore $50 million in cuts to the Department of Education's HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays programs. In addition to IU, presidents of seven other Big Ten universities, as well as the presidents of leading schools such as Columbia, Princeton, Cornell, Stanford and New York University signed the letter.

The cuts, which unexpectedly were made in the final round of 2011 budget preparations, represent a 40 percent reduction in funding for the programs. Presidents McRobbie, DeGioia and the other signatories are requesting that funding be restored to 2010 levels of $125.9 million in the fiscal year 2012 budget.

For more than 50 years, the federal government has funded educational programs aimed at strengthening the country's global competence through K-12 and college programs that provide foreign culture and language training. Many of these programs focus on improving the nation's educational capabilities in less commonly taught languages and cultures.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress authorized a series of enhancements to Title VI/Fulbright programs in recognition of the urgent need for drastically improved foreign language and culture fluency, especially among current and future foreign service and military leaders.

For example, prior to 9-11 no U.S. university taught Pashto, a language used throughout Afghanistan. Today, because of Title VI funding, six universities, including IU, offer a combined 32 courses in Pashto. Title VI universities account for half the total U.S. undergraduate enrollment in the least commonly taught languages and more than three-quarters of the graduate school enrollment in these languages.

Likewise, IU and other universities with Title VI programs offer valuable language and culture training to military personnel through contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. Such vital education is threatened by cuts to Title VI funding.

"Federal resources serve as the linchpin for investment in developing and sustaining a strong foundation of high quality national capacity in international education, research and foreign language studies, especially in less-commonly taught languages and world areas of U.S. strategic interest," Presidents McRobbie and DeGioia wrote.

As a leader in foreign language and culture education, IU has nine Title VI programs, which is among the highest concentration of Title VI programs of any university in the country. As a result of the funding cuts, IU experienced a $1.7 million decrease in Title VI funding for the 2011-2012 school year.

The university is working to find alternative sources for some of the funding. In the long run, however, programs in areas of strategic importance to the United States could be in jeopardy if funding is not restored in the 2010 federal budget.

"Indiana University has trained generations of foreign language scholars, public service leaders and military personnel with the support of Title VI programs," McRobbie said. "These programs have made a lasting impact and play an increasingly central role in our understanding of strategically important regions of the world. Restoring Title VI funding to 2010 levels is essential to continuing that critical work."

IU offers courses in more than 80 foreign languages including 50 being taught in any given semester. Title VI funding supports students and faculty working in areas such as African studies, Central Asian languages, Middle Eastern cultures and international business education and research. In addition, IU faculty members offer language and culture training to Indiana National Guard soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan.

Distinguished IU alumni who have benefited from Title VI programs while at the university include former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia James Collins.

The letter from presidents Michael McRobbie and John DeGioia urging Congress to restore funding to U.S. Department of Education's HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays can be read here.

For more information, please contact Mark Land, associate vice president of University Communications, at 812-856-1172 (office), 812-322-9016 (mobile), or