Yale’s MacMillan Center has begun seeking money from outside donors to offset a nearly 50 percent reduction in federal funding that supports area studies.

During the 2011 fiscal year, the federal government cut nearly $16 million in funds earmarked for the National Resource Centers Program, which helps support international and area studies programs at universities across the United States. In the wake of the budget reduction, colleges and universities nationwide lost 47 percent of the funding they received from these Title VI grants — a change that has hit Yale at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, said Ian Shapiro, the center’s director. Five regional programs within the MacMillan Center have been impacted by the federal cuts, and Shapiro said those programs will need to gear their budget strategies toward raising new funds from donors in response to the federal cut.

“We’re really trying to strategize to think of other funding possibilities for the years to come,” said Kamari Clarke, professor of anthropology and chair of the Council on African Studies.

Title VI funding began in 1958 under the National Defense Education Act, which was partly designed to encourage language instruction and develop international area expertise. Five area studies councils — African, Latin American, East Asian, European and Middle East — were awarded four-year Title VI grants totaling over $9 million in 2010, said Timothy O’Connor, associate provost for science and technology, who oversees funding for the MacMillan center.

The funding is distributed to the councils through National Resource Center allocations and Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships, O’Connor said, and supports curriculum and program development by faculty, summer fellowships for students, growth in foreign language programs, and education and community outreach.

But following budget negotiations in Washington, D.C., the Title VI funding Yale was supposed to receive this year under the original terms of the four-year grants was sliced almost in half — from roughly $1.4 million to $700,000 — and O’Connor said those funds are unlikely to be restored. Shapiro said he is not optimistic about how much money from the 2010-’13 Title VI grants the University will actually receive over the next two years, adding that many believe the federal program will be terminated entirely.

As Title VI funding has trailed off, the councils most dependent on federal support — which Shapiro said are the councils in Middle East, Latin American and African studies — have had to trim research, outreach and language programs. Shapiro said he has begun to seek funding from donors in order to minimize these reductions in program activities.

An unexpected donation from Steve Hendel, the producer of the Broadway musical “Fela!”, has helped bolster the African studies program, which program manager Maureen Anderson said lost about $120,000 in federal funding this fall. Shapiro said Hendel gave $2.5 million in October to an initiative on anticorruption and technological innovation in Africa.

“It’s a model of what we’re going to have to be doing going forward,” Shapiro said of the gift, adding that he has been busy talking to foundations and individual donors to raise money for MacMillan center programs.

Though the University provides some funding for the Council on African Studies, such as to faculty and staff salaries, the National Resource Center grant has covered roughly 75 percent of programming costs in recent years, Anderson said.

Frank Griffel, professor of religious studies and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies, said Title VI funding has supported both language education and outreach activities, including summer cultural immersion programs for high school and college educators in the region. But the decline in federal funding has forced the council to cut “every corner,” Griffel said, trimming money spent on research activities and conferences.

In 1965, Title VI funding was brought under the Higher Education Act.