The Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program may have fewer spots to offer a growing applicant pool if its budget stays on U.S. House of Representatives' cutting block.
New cuts proposed by the House could reduce the program’s allocation by 10 percent, part of broader efforts on Capitol Hill to reign in federal spending. Congress is not expected to finalize the 2012 federal budget until December.
The prestigious scholarship program, overseen by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, saw cuts of $16.4 million in fiscal year 2011, bringing its total budget down to $237.4 million.
The Fulbright Program – which funds students and teachers who conduct research abroad and brings foreign scholars to the United States – will become more competitive as its finances get tighter, director of the University’s Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research Paul Hoyt-O’Connor said.
“I do think its going to be that much more competitive,” he said.
Each year-long grant covers transportation, research and living costs in the country of a student’s choice. While some awards focus on individual research projects, others fund scholars to teach English abroad.
Future cuts likely won’t affect the number of English teaching awards, but could reduce the specialized research grants Fulbright offers, Hoyt-O’Connor said.
The first round of cuts last year reduced support staff abroad and led to the termination of the Fulbright-Hays doctoral program and some foreign-language grants, he said.
“My guess would be that they’d have to prioritize when it comes to positions they want to keep,” he said.
The U.S. provides the bulk of funding for the 150-country program, but participating countries have upped their financial contributions in recent years. Support for the program by foreign governments rose to $89 million in 2010, a $10 million boost spearheaded by Chile and Brazil.
“There is a demonstrated commitment on the part of other countries to help fund the Fulbright program,” Hoyt-O’Connor said, although he added that more international funding would not compensate for domestic cuts.
GW was ranked No. 15 among Fulbright Scholar-producing universities this year, with 15 students winning grants.
Hoyt-O’Connor said he expects more than 10,000 students nationally to vie for the 1,600 Fulbright grants given to American students each year.
He could not estimate the number of GW applicants this year because, although the bulk of applications were due last month, several programs have rolling deadlines that have not yet closed. Last year, 66 students applied.
“The Fulbright program in general has received many more applications than in previous years,” Hoyt-O’Connor said, a difference he attributed to a tough national job market.
Representatives from the Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright and other scholarships at accredited universities nationwide, did not return request for comment.