Flexibility--Key To Administering Fulbright-Hays Exchange Program

Gao ID: ID-80-3 December 10, 1979

To promote understanding between the United States and other countries, the Government sponsors the Fulbright-Hays educational and cultural exchange programs. These include a two-way academic program and an international visitors program which brings government, business, media, and other leaders to the United States for short visits. Sharp funding reductions in the latter 1960's, coupled with the emphasis of maintaining the number of academic grants, resulted in cutbacks on orientation, allowances, grant periods, and followup in some countries. In February 1979, the President submitted to the Congress a plan to increase funding for the exchange program through 1983.

Should funding for the exchange program be increased, the International Communication Agency may want to use some of the additional money to improve services to participants. With regard to the process of selecting participants for the program, several issues required attention: (1) maintaining a balance between the number of American and foreign participants; (2) awarding grants to individuals who already have studied abroad; (3) discouraging renewals of grants; and (4) coordinating with other international exchange programs. Orientation, reception, and assistance in different countries ranged from informal to structured. With the exception of American participants in Yugoslavia, there were few complaints regarding assistance to participants. Generally, evaluation, followup, and measuring the impact of exchanges received little if any attention from program officials. Similarly, there was little followup on previous Fulbright scholars, and GAO believed it might be worthwhile to consider alternatives to traditional notions of followup. Other threats to the program's future, such as the problem with allowance rates for participants and the decline of the teacher program, stemmed from the rising cost of living. The International Visitors Program, which enabled 2,000 persons to visit the United States annually, appeared to have few administrative problems.

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