FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP PLAN FACES CUTS AS IT TURNS 50.
Juleyka Lantigua can tell you the precise minute when she opened the letter assuring her lasting membership in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world.
``It was May 15, at 12:03 a.m. I went completely insane. I woke up everyone in my house, screaming, Mommy! Mommy! They gave it to me! I can't believe this! And then I started crying.''!
The 20-year-old's news: She had been awarded a Fulbright foreign scholarship for nine months of research in Spain on how Dominican immigrants have fared in that country.
Juleyka is one of a new generation of Fulbrighters - as they are called - in a milestone class that marks the 50th anniversary of the program.
More than 200,000 Fulbrighters from the United States and other countries have lived and studied overseas since President Truman signed the legislation establishing the educational exchange program on Aug. 1, 1946. More than 90,000 Americans have gone abroad.
The program is named after U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who sponsored the legislation two weeks after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Arkansas senator died in February 1995.
But while observances around the world commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright program, they are tempered by a hard reality. Congress has cut the program's budget by more than 20 percent, from $118 million to $92 million this year.
Fulbrighters like Juleyka are one of the reasons for the program's significance and prestige, said Thomas Farrell, a vice president of the Institute of International Education in New York, which administers the Fulbright program for Congress.
``It's based on merit,'' he said. ``It's set up to take the best and brightest. It doesn't matter whether your family has a lot of resources or a few resources. It's the only national scholarship program we have in the United States for any kind of international study.''
Another reason for its success, Farrell said, is that it is a joint effort of the United States with each of the 130 foreign countries that have signed agreements.
But supporters fear even more cuts ahead.
Each of seven foreign countries contributed more to the Fulbright exchanges with the United States than did the U.S. government in 1994, according to the Fulbright Association.
Among prominent Americans who were Fulbright scholars in their youth are U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan; Richard L. Thomas, chief executive officer of the First National Bank of Chicago; television journalist Garrick Utley; Ronald J. Grabe, astronaut mission commander for Discovery; authors John Updike and Eudora Welty; actor Stacy Keach; musician Aaron Copland; opera singer Anna Moffo; and Rita Dove, poet laureate emeritus of the United States.