Department of Education Provides Further Information on Reporting of Foreign Gifts to U.S. Universities

Following its collection of public comment on the reporting requirements for foreign gifts and contracts with American universities, the Department of Education (DOE) has released additional information on the requirements.

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires that institutions report to the federal government any gift or contract with a foreign source valued at $250,000 or more “considered alone or in combination with all other gifts from or contracts with that foreign source within a calendar year.” In February, DOE requested a budgetary review of its new reporting system for foreign gifts from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and called for public comment.

In May, DOE posted responses to 17 additional comments it received since its last information collection request. The Department clarified that institutions that do not conduct government-funded research are still required to report funds from foreign sources. DOE also noted that several institutions have inquired about whether a transfer of funds from an institution to a foreign source must be reported, saying it would consider issuing formal guidance to clarify this point.  Addressing confidentiality concerns, the Department gave assurances that the names and addresses of donors would not be subject to FOIA disclosure and that it would focus on the safety of donors in religiously persecuted countries.

DOE has also recently announced an investigation into the University of Texas System’s reporting for foreign gifts and contracts.

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

Image by University of Texas