Federal legislation introduced last month by Sen. Todd Young of Indiana could help put Indiana University foreign language and international studies programs on more solid footing.
The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, would reauthorize Title VI of the federal Higher Education Act, providing a framework for continued support of university-based programs that develop American expertise in languages and international studies.
"Title VI centers are vital contributors to the development of U.S. expertise in international education, languages and area studies that is essential for U.S. economic competitiveness and international security," IU President Michael A. McRobbie said. "Sen. Young's bill would ensure the tools are in place to adequately train future U.S. diplomats, business leaders and national security professionals."
Indiana University has long been a leader in Title VI programs, including National Resource Centers and Language Resource Centers. Its international studies, language and culture programs are centered in the School of Global and International Studies, which was established in 2012.
"We are proud of our Title VI Centers, which are the cornerstone of what makes SGIS truly global," said Lee Feinstein, dean of the school. "We are tremendously grateful for Sen. Young's leadership in championing the importance of Title VI in helping ensure America's students are globally ready."
Title VI programs date from the Cold War era as part of America's efforts to compete with the Soviet Union for influence in the developing world. Later the programs were moved to the Department of Education, and their focus was broadened to include non-defense studies and expertise.
IU's first National Resource Center, the Russian and East European Institute, was established in 1958 and has been continuously funded under Title VI for 60 years. The institute coordinates a variety of programming for campus and off-campus constituencies and extensive outreach to K-12 Russian language programs in Indiana and elsewhere.
Other National Resource Centers at IU are the Center for the Study of the Middle East, the East Asian Studies Center and the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center. IU Title VI programs also include the Center for the Languages of the Central Asian Region, the National African Language Resource Center, the Center for International Business and Education Research in the Kelley School of Business, the African Studies Program and the Global Learning Across Indiana undergraduate program.
While strategically important, Title VI programs are low-profile and easily overlooked. Their funding was cut in 2011 and has remained flat. Future funding decisions will be part of federal budget legislation.
Young's legislation fits into a plan by Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, to reauthorize the entire Higher Education Act this year.
"The legislation is a real shot in the arm for the Title VI program," said Doug Wasitis, IU assistant vice president for federal relations. "It shows that the Senate is interested in continuing to support it."
The measure also reflects longstanding interest for Young, who met with McRobbie soon after being elected to the U.S. House in 2010 and learned that support for Title VI programs was a high priority for the university. He was elected to the Senate in 2016.
Young serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees the Department of Education, and on the Foreign Relations Committee. In a news release, he said reauthorizing Title VI will strengthen America's global infrastructure, advance national security, promote competition and broaden access to underserved students.