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Foreign Language and International Studies: Federal Aid Under Title VI of the Higher Education Act

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Abstract:

Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA) -- International Education Programs -- authorizes a variety of grants to institutions of higher education (IHEs) and related entities to enhance instruction in foreign language and area studies (FLAS). This is one of the oldest U.S. Department of Education (ED) programs of support to higher education, having been initiated as Title VI of the National Defense Education Act of 1958. This program reflects the special priority placed by the federal government on FLAS, especially with respect to diplomacy, national security, and trade competitiveness. Interest in HEA Title VI and other federal programs supporting FLAS has increased recently due to concerns regarding terrorism arising from foreign regions which are infrequently included in American postsecondary curricula.

While HEA Title VI authorizes several distinct activities, approximately threefifths of the funds are used for two of these -- National Resource Centers (NRCs) and FLAS Fellowships. This pair of programs has long been the core activity supported under Title VI, while the others are smaller-scale supplementary activities intended to serve more specific goals (e.g., the Business and International Educational Education Program) and/or to support the two primary programs (e.g., the Language Resource Center program).

There appears to be broad agreement that interaction between American society and people and cultures from throughout the world is increasing steadily, generating national security concerns involving nations large and small. International education advocates argue that since it may be impossible to predict which nations will generate such concern in the future, and substantial time is required to develop the necessary human capital, it is important that ongoing support be provided from some source for instruction in all of the world's significant languages and cultures. However, it may be questioned whether this support should be provided by the federal government, and whether it should be focused on the nation's colleges and universities, on federally operated language schools, or both.

Major reauthorization issues regarding HEA Title VI include: Should the federal government continue to support foreign language and areas studies in American institutions of higher education through HEA Title VI? Are HEA Title VI programs appropriately coordinated with other federal efforts to support advanced foreign language and area studies? And, should there be increased targeting of Title VI grants on foreign languages and world regions of "critical" interest to the federal government?

This report will be updated periodically, in response to relevant legislative or budgetary actions.