- Primavera Capital Group, based in Hong Kong, quietly bought Princeton Review and Tutor.com from ST Unitas, a Korean education company, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- Republican lawmakers are sounding the alarm on the purchase calling for the United States to take proper precautions to protect the nation’s security and data privacy.
- “Whether it’s a social media app, drone manufacturer, investment platform or tutoring firm, the Chinese Communist Party can always pressure its leadership to serve China’s interests or snoop on American users’ data. These acquisitions put the CCP in a position to push pro-Communist propaganda on U.S. schoolchildren and harvest data on service members deployed overseas,” Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Republican lawmakers are raising concerns after a Chinese company purchased two popular tutoring services used to prepare students for college entry exams such as the SAT and ACT.
In January 2022, Primavera Capital Group, based in Hong Kong, quietly bought Princeton Review and Tutor.com from ST Unitas, a Korean education company, according to The Wall Street Journal. The purchase of the tutoring companies, which serve the U.S. military, is a threat to the nation’s security and American’s data privacy, lawmakers told the DCNF. (RELATED: DeSantis Signs Bill Blocking Chinese Property Ownership Near Military Installations)
“Culturally, Chinese strategy is approached from a generational, even multigenerational perspective,” Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, told the DCNF. “So, CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] intent to establish Chinese influence in the American educational realm is simply reflective of a long term strategy to achieve ‘presence’ deep within every vestige of American society. Cultural Trojan horses, if you will. We are engaged in ongoing cultural warfare, and every effort to preserve traditional American values and culture is a significant battle in that war. CCP influence over major tutoring entities is no exception to these truths.”
When Primavera Capital Group purchased the company, there were no press releases announcing the transaction, the WSJ reported. In May, Princeton Review and Tutor.com updated their websites to include references to their new owner.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), a group that reviews potential threats posed by foreign purchasers of American entities, has not revealed whether it is reviewing Primavera Capital Group’s purchase, though the committee is “committed to taking all necessary actions within its authority to safeguard U.S. national security,” a Treasury Department spokesperson told the WSJ.
“China’s appetite to acquire American firms and technology is growing,” Republican Rep. Aaron Bean of Florida, a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, told the DCNF. “When it comes to doing business, the Chinese Communist Party likes to engage in economic espionage in its quest for world domination. We must be cautious of this acquisition and subject it to a strict CFIUS review to ensure this transaction does not result in the transfer of sensitive American technologies, data and intellectual property.”
Tutor.com, a service of Princeton Review, partners with some of the largest and well-known school systems in the country, including Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, Fresno Unified School District in California and Los Angeles Unified School District in California, according to the organization’s website. State agencies including the Texas Education Agency and New Hampshire Department of Education use the college prep service as well.
“In practice, the CCP can compel Chinese companies to hand over their data to the government,” Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, told the DCNF. “Allowing one of these companies to acquire major U.S. educational services sets a troubling precedent. These educational companies collect a considerable amount of data on our students, and going forward, there’s no real guarantee that student data won’t end up in the hands of the CCP.”
Tutor.com has additionally partnered with the Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. military personnel to provide free tutoring and college prep to service members, according to the organization’s website. As a part of its service, the company collects information on its instructors and clients such as names, IP addresses and recording of tutoring sessions, the WSJ reported.
“We’re in a geopolitical conflict with Beijing, and every transaction needs to be viewed through that lens,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, told the DCNF. “Tutor.com’s longstanding contract with our military is even greater cause for concern. We need to know what the DOD is doing to mitigate the potential impact of this sale. And more broadly, our government needs to approach these types of transactions with greater scrutiny and due diligence.”
Regardless of where they are stationed, students of DOD service members can receive free “one-to-one anonymous help” on homework and test preparation in more than 40 subjects, according to Tutor.com. The education company requires tutor applicants to receive a background check and go through a “rigorous” application process to maintain security.
As a part of its pledge for “safe, secure, anonymous learning,” no “webcams and telephones” are allowed during tutoring sessions ,which are kept anonymous, according to Tutor.com. Many of the company’s tutors are affiliated with the U.S. military, the tutoring company stated in its fact sheet.
“There is no such thing as a private company in China,” Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Select Committee on China, told the DCNF. “The fact is that Princeton Review and Tutor.com have a new owner: Xi Jinping. Given the vast amount of personal information these sites have on American households, including many service members and their families, this deal raises real concerns — especially since Tutor.com maintains an active contract with the Department of Defense.”
In addition to the tutoring services, Chinese ties to U.S. education institutions have come under fire. In 2014, Thomas Jefferson High School, one of Virginia’s most prestigious high schools, has received more than $1 million in donations from Chinese interests, according to a report by Parents Defending Education, a parental rights group.
“Lawmakers should be concerned by any Chinese technology companies doing extensive business in the U.S.,” Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, told the DCNF. “Whether it’s a social media app, drone manufacturer, investment platform or tutoring firm, the Chinese Communist Party can always pressure its leadership to serve China’s interests or snoop on American users’ data. These acquisitions put the CCP in a position to push pro-Communist propaganda on U.S. schoolchildren and harvest data on service members deployed overseas.”
“I’ve called on the United States to disentangle from the Chinese Communist Party since I arrived in Congress,” Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of California, a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, told the DCNF. “This acquisition of American-based tutoring brands by a Chinese-based company, much like the purchasing of American farmland by the CCP, is beyond concerning and the United States must disentangle immediately. China is our peer threat, and they must be treated as such.”
Princeton Review, Tutor.com and Primavera Capital Group did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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