Title VI grant awarded to six University area studies centers

By Jane Lee

Six of the University’s international and area studies centers received Federal Title VI funding from the Department of Education.

This funding supports institutions that instill teaching and learning opportunities that extend upon world regions’ cultures and languages. The University received a total of $12.54 million which lasts until 2018, with roughly $3 million allocated for the 2014-15 year.

According to the Department of Education, the Title VI grant is divided between five programs that broaden access to international foreign language programs, although the University only received funding for two of these programs: the National Resource Centers and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships.

Grants are given to national colleges and universities that encourage education based on foreign languages and international studies. Every four years the grant is awarded to international study programs and centers at multiple institutions.

Angelina Cotler, associate director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said the Department of Education looks for certain qualities in the universities that have area studies centers.

“We are very strong in faculty, students, library, outreach, reaching schools and reaching teachers because we have to give teachers in high schools, middle schools and colleges, our tools and knowledge and our resources to help them to teach area studies,” Cotler said. 

She also said money from Title VI grants will go toward resources that help each area’s studies center excel in their programs and to aid faculty and students to become more knowledgeable about their teachings and learning.

Dara Goldman, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies, said the center is able to teach an Intro to Latin American Studies class that has around 200 to 250 students per semester. Goldman said the grant has helped offer online summer classes, which can add an additional 30 students to the list. 

“It’s a wonderful source for both teaching and programming that promotes understanding and engagement with Latin America,” Goldman said. “That’s the kind of thing that this funding really allows us to do consistently and to incorporate new technology and be able to recruit leading experts in a variety of fields so that we can really offer diverse perspectives on Latin America and the knowledge that Latin America has to offer to us and the world.”

Institutions’ area studies centers submit proposals to apply and receive the Title VI grant and certain criteria need to be met each time universities apply for funding.

“Now, every four years that we have applied to this grant, the Department of Education has had different requirements and this depends on the programming of the government, what they want to strengthen,” Cotler said. “For example, this year, what is required from us, and this is a new requirement, is to work with minority colleges.”

The six area studies centers focus on different regions and topics of the world, and within these centers, there are more than 100 affiliated faculty members in each area that take part in teaching and doing research on specific regions.

Cotler said that these faculty members bring in students to the University’s programs, which helps the Department of Education see the strength of the interest in the regions.

In recent years, due to the financial crisis, the Department of Education reduced the budget of Title VI funding by almost 50 percent, said David Cooper, director of the Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Center. For this year’s Title VI grant, the Department planned to cut the budget by almost 15 percent for the number of centers within the United States.

Cooper said that the initial plan to reduce funding would allow the Department of Education to increase the budget for specific centers they funded because it is not possible to increase the total cost of funding to the Title VI program back before the financial plight. This, overall, would permit the centers that receive funds to have ample budgets.

“Our budget has increased from what it was last year to this year by $55,000. We were down around $180,000 after the cut, and now we’re back up to $235,000 this year,” said Cooper. “That’s the substantial increase for us because we got funded, but there are a lot of centers that didn’t get funded this year because they’re reducing the number of centers, which makes it all the more remarkable.”

Jane can be reached at [email protected]