The Fulbright Program:  A Brief Legislative Chronology


1946 - 1996 

The State Department absorbs the information and cultural activities of the U.S. government under a variety of names, including among others, the Office of Educational Exchanges.



The Fulbright Act (Public Law 584; 79th Congress) creates the first international educational exchange program named for J. William Fulbright, sponsor of the legislation.



The first executive agreement on the Fulbright Act is signed between China and the United States.



The United States Information and Educational Exchange Act (Smith-Mundt Act; Public Law 80-402) is signed. It is the charter for U.S. overseas information and cultural programs. The legislation begins dollar funding for the Fulbright program. The first Fulbright grant is awarded to Derk Bodde, a sinologist at the University of Pennsylvania, for a program in China.



President Eisenhower creates the United States Information Agency (USIA) under Reorganization Plan No. 8. Educational exchange programs remain in the State Department due to intervention of Sens. Fulbright, Bourke Hickenlooper and Karl Mundt.



Foreign currencies accruing from the sale of U.S. surplus agricultural commodities are made available for financing of the Fulbright program (Public Law 480, 93rd Congress).



An educational exchange agreement signed with Chile under the Fulbright Act establishes the first binational Fulbright program in Latin American.



The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (Fulbright-Hays Act; Public Law 87-256) of 1961, is signed by President Kennedy, consolidating various U.S. international educational and cultural exchange activities. The Fulbright-Hays Act is still the basic legislative authority for the program. A Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is established in the State Department to administer Fulbright and other U.S. government exchange programs.



Fulbright programs function in 110 countries. In 48 of these countries, binational commissions identify academic priorities and nominate candidates for Fulbright awards.



The Congressional Research Service (CRS), Library of Congress, prepares a report, at the request of Sen. J. William Fulbright, on U.S. information and cultural programs. CRS finds that the presidentially appointed Board of Foreign Scholarships "successfully protects the integrity of the Fulbright program against political pressures."



President Carter approves a reorganization plan that combines the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (which includes the Fulbright program) and USIA, as the United States International Communication Agency (ICA). The first annual meeting of the U.S.-Fulbright Alumni Association is held.



Public Law 97-241, the agency's authorization bill for fiscal year 1982-83, changes the agency's name back to the United States Information Agency (USIA).



Congress honors the founder of the program by changing the name of the Board of Foreign Scholarships to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.



Under a Bilateral Agreement between the U.S. Government and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Jordanian-American Commission for Edcuational Exchange (JACEE) is created.



The Jordanian-American Commission for Educational Exchange, also known as the Binational Fulbright Commission in Jordan, is established as the "Fulbright House" in Amman.



 Former Sen. J. William Fulbright dies on Feb. 9, 1995, after suffering a stroke. He was 89.



The Fulbright Program celebrated its 50th Anniversary now operating programs in 143 countries with 51 bilateral Fulbright Commissions established by government agreements.


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