With the tuition rates on the rise and budget cuts to nearly all spending in higher education, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that international education programming and funding is at a serious risk of being reduced. Political candidates have stated publicly their intent to cut spending in the some 75 internationally focused programs that fall under the Department of State and Department of Education.
At the same time, we face the reality that we have an economy that is inextricably connected to global markets and transnational negotiations that require us to develop and train language proficient, culturally competent professionals. The current funding for international education programs we have is crucial to maintaining the U.S. Economic strength and security.
It is clear that if we don’t fund opportunities that make our students competitive in the global market other nations will look to fill that void. In the U.S alone, there are 670,000 international students studying at institutions of higher learning. This far exceeds the 260,000 U.S. students we send abroad annually (IIE 2009 Open Doors Report).
As a nation, we should be encouraging students to pursue language study, study abroad and involvement in internationally focused activities with particular focus on expanding these opportunities to underrepresented groups. As a field, international education has much more to do not only to expand how many students are served, but the diversity of students who have access to international opportunities. There is a need to send students abroad who represent the diversity reflected in our nation, and now is not the time reduce funding that currently supports those initiatives (ex. Gilman Scholarship, Rangel Fellowship, and Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship).
Similarly, in order to justify that the current spending is meaningful, we need to make sure current funding is working efficiently and demonstrates that these programs work. We need to provide concrete evidence that the impact of these programs gives good reason for maintaining and potentially increasing spending in these areas.
International education is critical to developing the next generation of leaders, and we need to support initiatives that keep and increase funding support in these areas.