The Collective Public Policy Voice of the Exchange Community

Washington, DC (February 12, 2018) – The Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget released today by the Administration proposes a steep 75 percent cut to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Specifically, the FY19 request of $159 million is a significant reduction from ECA’s actual budget of $634.1 million in FY17. Last year, the Administration recommended a 55 percent cut to ECA. Although a long-term FY18 budget has not been finalized, Congress recognized the importance of ECA and increased its funding for FY17. 

“The proposed cuts to ECA’s budget recommended by the Administration, if enacted, would greatly harm our nation’s public diplomacy efforts and, ultimately, our national security and economy,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange.

Educational and cultural exchange programs have been a critical component of our national security policy since the end of World War II. Often described as part of our “soft power” strategy, these programs bring people from around the world to the United States for short-term, full immersion stays that range from weeks to an entire academic year. The State Department reports that 1 in 3 current world leaders have been on an exchange program in the United States. In another Department study, 92 percent of participants from Muslim majority countries reported having a more favorable view of the United States. Over 90 percent of ECA’s budget is spent in the United States or by Americans administering grants which fund travel, lodging, and meals at U.S. businesses. The grants are administered by American nonprofit organizations that employee thousands of people in the United States and enrich the lives of millions across the country.

“Congress has consistently demonstrated a strong, bipartisan commitment to exchange programs,” said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director. “We call on Congress to recommit our country to people-to-people diplomacy by providing strong funding for ECA.”

As the voice of international exchange, the Alliance promotes the growth and impact of exchange programs and the effectiveness of its members by engaging in advocacy, providing member development opportunities, and building public awareness of the power of exchange