Education Department Probe Finds Top Universities Have ‘Massively Underreported’ Funding From ‘Foreign Adversaries’


Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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The Education Department released a report that concluded that top U.S. universities “massively underreported” funding from “foreign adversaries” including China and Russia, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The department’s probe looked into 12 schools, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown universities, and revealed that most of the schools had financial dealings with Chinese tech giant Huawei, which officials have determined is a threat to U.S. national security. Another school had direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party, while others had deals with the Russian government and institutions in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the AP reported. 

Universities are required to disclose all contracts and gifts from foreign sources that, alone or combined, are $250,000 or more in a calendar year, but the department only recently began enforcing the statute despite it being decades old. 

The department described higher-education institutions as “multi-billion dollar, multi-national enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue,” the Wall Street Journal reported in May.

Since coming under scrutiny, the dozen schools disclosed a combined $6.5 billion in foreign funding that was previously unreported, the department said according to the AP.

The report found that the nation’s largest and richest universities have “aggressively pursued and accepted foreign money.” It concluded that colleges have “massively underreported” the resulting funding and also concealed details about the funding they did disclose to the government, including the names of foreign donors, according to the AP. Stanford, the report cites an as example, anonymizes the names of foreign donors.

Officials have previously accused schools of soliciting money from foreign entities that are hostile to the U.S. and could possibly be looking for opportunities to steal research or spread foreign government propaganda. Despite the foreign money often flowing in largest quantities to the country’s richest universities, the department found that the influx of money generally doesn’t offset American students’ tuition costs.

Yale had failed to disclose at least $375 million in foreign funding after filing no reports between 2014-17, the Education Department said in a document viewed by the Wall Street Journal in May. (RELATED: Education Department Launches Investigation Into Harvard And Yale To Spot Possible Failures To Report Foreign Funding) 

The department also asked the University of Texas in May to provide documentation of its potential ties to the Chinese Communist Party and two dozen Chinese companies, including Huawei. 

Education Secretary said her department’s most recent probe uncovered pervasive noncompliance” from universities that have “significant foreign entanglement,” according to the AP.

“For decades enforcement was lax, but not anymore,” she said. “We took action to make sure the public is afforded the transparency the law requires.”

The report cites the recent cases of Chinese nationals who have worked or studied at American universities while also working for the Chinese government. The Justice Department has cracked down on Chinese influence at American campuses, and has leveled charges against more than a dozen professors, researchers, and students who were suspected of espionage and other related offenses.

The purpose of the report, the department said, was to promote transparency. While it’s not unusual for colleges to accept foreign funding for research projects or exchange programs, the federal reporting requirements have been treated as an honor system while little was done to verify the funding reports colleges gave to the government, according to the AP.

Universities say they sought to follow the law but were given little guidance, according to the AP, but the department dismissed those concerns.

“Institutions manage to track every cent owed and paid by their students; there is no doubt they can – and indeed do – track funds coming from foreign sources, including those adversarial to American interests,” the report said.

DeVos began ordering a broader investigation after a bipartisan report found that 70% of schools had a Confucius Institute, which is funded by the Chinese government and was designated a foreign mission. Dozens of Confucius Institutes at campuses across the country have dissolved amid the heightened scrutiny by the Trump administration, a Daily Caller report found.