How Fulbright Scholarships Work

Funding, Sponsorship and Management of Fulbright Scholarships

The Fulbright Program receives most of its funding through an annual appropriation made from Congress to the Department of State. In addition to U.S. contributions, financing also comes from the more than 155 participating countries through salary supplements for visiting researchers and scholars, tuition waivers and university housing [source: CIES: Handbook]. In 2008, the U.S. appropriation was $215.4 million, in addition to $60 million coming from foreign governments [source: CIES: Fulbright].

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), which is part of the Department of State, oversees the U.S. program. But the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, made up of educational and political leaders, is responsible for defining policies and establishing criteria for awards. Final selection of Fulbright Scholars falls to the Institute of International Education (IIE), the organization responsible for day-to-day management of the Fulbright Exchange Program.

In participating countries, appointed commissions establish the number of grants and categories based on input they receive from local stakeholders. As of 2010, there were 50 active commissions, 47 of which are funded jointly by the United States and each nation's respective government [source: CIES]. Each commission has a board, made up of the same number of Americans as representatives from participating countries. In countries where there's not a commission, the U.S. Embassy, via the Public Affairs Section, manages the Fulbright Program on their behalf.

In the next section, we'll look at the different types of scholarships available under the Fulbright Program.