US: bill amendment would eliminate $700m funding for exchange programs

Published 27/09/2023

US stakeholders have warned that a proposal to reduce funding for the US Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs by $700 million in a bill passing through the legislature would decimate the study abroad sector.

Last minute additions to the H.R. 4665 – Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2024, would entirely eliminate funding for the exchange programs if passed.

The House Rules Committee needs to approve the rule before it moves to the House, where representatives will be able to vote to remove amendments.

Sector stakeholders are hoping that the Republican-controlled lower house will take out any parts of the bill that will hit the international education sector. However, they also say that the entire bill will be struck down entirely by the Democrat-led Senate.

Republican member of the house of representatives from Arizona, Andy Biggs, has proposed amendments that he says will pause “out-of-control federal spending”. According to the US treasury, the federal government currently has $33.10 trillion in federal debt.

“It’s outrageous that a MAGA Republican would propose an amendment to must pass legislation to defund the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchange and eliminate cultural exchange programs as we know them,” said American Institute for Foreign Study chairman, William L Gertz.

“These programs have been an integral part of America’s Public Diplomacy efforts and have always been nonpartisan in nature,” he told The PIE.

“It is clearly a shot across the bow at internationalism and cultural exchange”

“While this amendment will not pass, it is clearly a shot across the bow at internationalism and cultural exchange. It needs to be condemned vigorously.”

The Alliance for International Exchange is urging representatives to oppose Amendment 133 and appealing sector stakeholders to appeal to their representatives.

“Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs are a proven and cost effective way for the United States to remain internationally competitive, engage current and future international leaders, and promote American values,” a letter to members of the House of Representatives says.

Exchanges are a “key instrument of US foreign policy and essential to strengthening US global leadership, and building respect and partnerships based on shared interests and mutual ties around the world”, it added.

Eliminating exchange program funding would negatively impact Americans and their communities across the country. The Alliance added that more than 90% of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs budget goes to American organisations, businesses and individuals.

“If enacted, Amendment 133 would devastate State Department educational and cultural exchange programs going forward, which would greatly harm not only our national security, but also the many American communities who host exchange visitors.”

The proposal comes after a tough year for international education in the US. There were concerns in spring about the potential impact of a rule from the Department of Education that would hit any third-party providers.

However, bipartisan bills were introduced in the US Congress in a bid to actually boost funding for study abroad programs earlier this summer. Additionally, the Biden administration has stated that study abroad is a “priority” for the government.

As well as eliminating exchange program funding, amendments proposed to the bill by a number of Republicans include reducing the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative by $300m and cutting the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program for children in low-income, food-deficit countries around the globe by $40m.

Republican representative from Pennsylvania, Scott Perry, has also proposed to reduce International Disaster Assistance funding to $0 from the current $3.9 billion.

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