The College Post
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Higher Ed. Groups Call for Changes in Reporting Foreign Gifts

A coalition of nearly 20 higher education organizations have written a letter to the Department of Education raising objection over the new ways proposed for reporting foreign gifts and contracts.

Led by the American Council on Education, the coalition letter raised serious concerns over the proposed Information Collection Request (ICR) published in the Federal Register by the Education Department in September.

The organizations said the new information collection plans exceed statutory authority. The letter raised questions over the way proposed information collection is organized and written which makes it subject to differing interpretations.

The organizations further said the rules would also put additional burden and cost to institutions to address the volume and nature of the additional information.

“At the same time, the Department’s information collection request requires such a large amount of information that it will actually undermine, as opposed to increase, the transparency of the relationships colleges and universities have with foreign individuals and entities, and efforts to identify nefarious conduct or inappropriate relationships,” the letter read.

Currently, the reporting requirements fall under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which directs colleges and universities to report the foreign gifts and contracts worth $250,000 or more within a calendar year with the Department of Education.

The organizations recommended the Education Department to make various changes to the ICR, which includes more clear language on $250,000 threshold, clarifying that institutions are not required to report tuition or other cost of attendance payments by foreign students and limiting reporting in the information collection request to the definition of the institution set forth in the statute.

The letter also called for waiving off the requirement that institutions produce true copies of the gift, contract, and restricted or conditional gift agreements.

At the moment, the federal government is investigating Cornell University, University of Maryland, Rutgers University, Georgetown University and Texas A&M University for potentially concealing foreign gifts.

Georgetown and Texas A&M have been accused of receiving foreign funds from Gulf nations, including a Russian cybersecurity company, the Kaspersky Lab. While Cornell and Rutgers have been accused of receiving foreign funds, particularly from China and Qatar, and not disclosing them to the Education Department.

Education Department Probes University of Maryland Over Foreign Gifts