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Department of Education Launches Online Portal for Reporting of Foreign Gifts to American Universities

In line with its increased focus on foreign funding for U.S. universities, the Department of Education (DOE) launched a new online portal to facilitate reporting of foreign gifts and contracts valued at more than $250,000. Such reporting is required by Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

According to DOE, billions of dollars in funds from foreign sources to U.S. higher education institutions have gone unreported. The new online portal requires universities to provide more information about foreign funding, including answering specific questions about each transaction, such as the nature of the foreign source.

DOE has taken a closer look at foreign gifts to universities in the past months, taking steps to clarify certain aspects of the law. It has also opened investigations into the foreign gifts reports of ten universities, including Georgetown, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas. The investigations pertain to gifts and contracts with countries like China, Qatar, and Russia. Importantly, DOE has clarified a presumption exists that foreign gifts and contracts received through legal entities, such as foundations that operate substantially for the benefit for or under the auspices of a university, must be disclosed.

Amid reports of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and censorship by the Chinese government, foreign funding for U.S. universities has come under increasing scrutiny. The Department of Justice has also addressed foreign influence in the U.S. through aggressive enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).