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Fulbright-Hays: The Newest Victim of Education Cuts

May 22, 2011

You might not have heard the news yet, since as of May 21st there have been no major news stories (the time of the first draft of this post), but the US government has decided to cut Fulbright-Hays funding for the following academic year of 2011-2012. At the current moment, the academic world, and especially Ph.D. students, is trying to figure how and why this program was axed. The Fulbright-Hays DDRA grant for dissertation research is known by nearly every graduate student across many disciplines and many of us count on this funding to support our dissertation projects.

For those not familiar with this program, the Fulbright scholarship fund was created in 1946 by US Senator J. William Fulbright to promote mutual understanding and cultural exchange between the United States and other countries. Hundreds of thousands have participated in some type of Fulbright program since its inception. Fulbright-Hays is just one component of the much larger Fulbright umbrella, and is funded and run by the Department of Education with the stated goals of “providing critical, advanced overseas study and research opportunities for area and language experts and faculty-in-training” and “offering experiences and resources enabling educators to strengthen their international teaching.” Between 1964 and 2010, Fulbright-Hays funded a total of 5,254 individual research projects. In 2010, doctoral dissertation grants were given to fund research in 75 countries, conducted in 64 different languages and in 22 different disciplines. In short, Fulbright-Hays provides a massive support system for dissertation research to already debt-stricken graduate students, many of whom cannot receive funding from their universities anymore.

In 2010, I was one of the recipients of Fulbright funding from the history department at UCLA for my doctoral dissertation project on the history of the Second World War in Ukraine. The funding I received has allowed me to work in ten archives in four cities across Ukraine and Russia. Given the strong support of this grant, I was able to put into practice my “wildest of dreams” version of a research agenda — this is an incredible gift to an aspiring scholar. The benefits of this funding will not only be reflected in the end result of this project, which will be a monograph one day, but in my overall growth as a scholar and teacher. Remember, it is people like me who one day will be teaching your children at college. One cannot also ignore the professional relationships such funding engenders, allowing scholars like myself to work, collaborate, teach and learn with Ukrainian and Russian colleagues in many different venues. They, too, benefit from this funding.

To think that this funding for future projects will be cut is troubling. The total annual cost to the federal government does not top $6 million dollars. I will not regale the reader with hyperbole about the state of education in America, since if you do not understand the direction it is headed by now, this letter will not change your mind. Of course, cutting this funding will not extinguish social sciences in America, but it does represent another step in the dismantling of our country’s commitment to scholarship and education.

I will simply remind everyone that we are a country that spends over one trillion dollars annually on offense-related expenditures (sometimes called “defense”) and cannot find six million to support the work of our next generation’s scholars. That contrast says a lot about our priorities and America’s orientation to the rest of the world. For all of the talk of sacrifice you hear from our wealthy and privileged leaders, often it seems that the ones doing the sacrificing are those who are the least guilty for creating our economic troubles and have so little left to give. Let us have no illusions, the continued assaults on education in America will cause long-term damage.

For more on the cuts see Fulbright Hays 2011 is Cancelled. Do Something., Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars, and Killing Fulbright-Hays. You can write about how this cut has affected you here and there is a facebook page.

Update May 23rd (6:30pm Kyiv): The new facebook support page is here. Please share any experiences here about how the cuts have affected you. And here is a form via NHA to contact your congressperson about the cuts. This is the official government announcement. To see how much research less than $6 million dollars will support read this report. And apparently, this cut was in the works since early April – see: “White House & Congress Reach Deal on FY 2011 Funding.” Title VI/Fulbright Hays International Education Programs were cut by 39.7% or $50 million dollars. We have Obama and Congress to thank.

I should also note I sent the bulk of this letter to Los Angeles Times, as I am a UCLA student and citizen of California. They have not responded after 48 hours.

Update May 25th: Two more letters here and here from non-Eastern Europe scholars. What is odd is the still apparent media blackout on the matter. It’s certainly not that I’m implying some concerted effort to not cover the bad news; it is simply odd that in the 24/7 news cycle not a single newspaper in America would find this a relevant story on which to report after four full days.

Update May 28th: Here is the petition to save Fulbright-Hays. And another great post from a former Fulbright recipient.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Madison permalink
    May 22, 2011 9:45 am

    The Rapture!

  2. Thomas Mullaney permalink
    May 22, 2011 11:00 am

    Has this decision affected you or someone you know? In an effort to keep tabs of how this announcement impacts the overall community, we’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment at

    or contact us at and let us know your situation and your story.

    Our very best wishes to all students affected by this situation.

  3. May 22, 2011 3:28 pm

    I think that you are right that more than anything this just shows the very scary trajectory that we seem to be on.

    • May 23, 2011 4:12 pm

      But I think we can agree Jesse that if we did have to make cuts, the Dutch field should certainly be the first to go. And especially Dutch history in and around say the early modern period.

  4. May 23, 2011 7:52 pm

    Fulbright-Hays is being cut because the right wants graduate degrees to be limited to the offspring of the wealthy. That also is why tuition is going up so much faster than the rate of inflation.

  5. June 1, 2011 3:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing the link to the petition on Care2. Please let me know if you have any questions about the petition.


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