International-education officials meeting here are expressing alarm at deep cuts in global-exchange programs in a budget bill passed late last week by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The measure, HR 1, would sharply reduce spending for international exchanges, decreasing support for such programs by 21 percent for the current fiscal year, to $501.3-million.
If approved, the impact of the cuts could be compounded because the government already has been operating for the first four months of the 2011 fiscal year based on spending levels in the previous year's budget, said Michael McCarry, executive director of the Alliance for International Education and Cultural Exchange, a coalition of education and nongovernmental groups.
That means the reductions really could feel more like 40 percent, Mr. McCarry told members of the Association of International Education Administrators, which is holding its annual conference here this week. He urged attendees to contact their members of Congress.
To take effect, the legislation would still have to pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama, who has been an advocate for educational exchanges that bring foreign students to colleges in the United States and send American students abroad. Mr. Obama included current spending levels for such programs in his budget for the 2012 fiscal year.
Even so, Mr. McCarry warned that international-education programs could be subject to further reductions, particularly with the influence of new Republican lawmakers elected on a platform of spending cuts, most of whom, he said, have limited experience abroad. What's more, the programs' longtime champions, Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, both Democrats, both retired at the end of the last Congressional session.
"There is going to be pressure on federal spending," Mr. McCarry said. "It has to go down; the question is how."