US universities received $6.5 billion in undisclosed foreign gifts and contracts – including ones from China
10/28/2020 // Franz Walker // Views

An investigation by the Department of Education (DOE) has found that American universities failed to report around $6.5 billion in foreign gifts and contracts, including some that came from China and Chinese companies.

Schools are required by federal law to report substantial foreign gifts and contracts to the DOE twice a year. Many, however, have either underreported these or outright failed to do so. It was only after the department opened an investigation into 12 elite universities did a deluge of financial disclosures pour in.

The findings were unveiled by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at an event on Tuesday, Oct. 20, alongside officials from both the Department of Justice and Department of State.

“The threat is real, so we took action to make sure the public is afforded the transparency the law requires,” said DeVos. “We found pervasive noncompliance by higher-ed institutions and significant foreign entanglement with America’s colleges and universities.”

U.S. universities failed to report foreign money

Among the universities listed in the report, Carnegie Mellon University topped the list, reporting almost $1.61 billion in foreign gifts and contracts. Meanwhile, Harvard University received the most funding from China, with nearly $116 million.

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires universities to report any foreign gifts or contracts exceeding more than $250,000. The act also empowers the DOE to refer compliance failures to the Justice Department, which can then carry out enforcement action to obtain records and eventually recover compliance costs.


This isn’t the first time that American universities have been caught in violation of Section 117. In August of last year, the DOE was investigating whether Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, Cornell University and Rutgers University were fully complying with the federal law on foreign gifts.

Overall, the DOE stated that universities received more than $19.6 billion in foreign gifts and contracts from 2014 to 2020. Of these, $1.5 billion came from China, $1.1 billion from Saudi Arabia and almost $3.1 billion from Qatar.

The vast majority of these foreign funds are coming to some of America’s largest and most prestigious universities, which are receiving billions through a bevy of intermediaries. At the same time, these institutions are still dependent on tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer subsidies while operating largely “divorced from any sense of obligation to our taxpayers or concern for our American national interests, security, or values,” according to the report.

China peddling its influence in U.S. universities

According to the DOE, the universities' failures to report the foreign funding were “extremely troubling.” It found that some universities, such as Yale University and Case Western Reserve University failed to report any foreign gifts or contracts just as they were “rapidly expanding their foreign operations and relationships,” particularly with China.

The report notes that for decades, state and non-state actors in China have been devoting significant resources “to  influence or control teaching and research, to the theft of intellectual property or even espionage, and to the use of American campuses as centers for propaganda operations and other projections of soft power.”

Cited in the report were several indictments that helped illustrate the problem. These include charges brought up against the chair of Harvard’s chemistry department and a visiting Stanford University researcher who was caught lying about her active status within the Chinese military and Chinese Communist Party. (Related: Academic hypocrisy: Stanford, liberal universities accepted funds from commie Beijing.)

In particular, Stanford has reported $64 million in unidentified, anonymous gifts from China since May 2010. Interestingly, the university stopped reporting detailed information on foreign gifts and contracts two months before the opening of the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing.

Some schools have taken money from companies linked to the Chinese government. Cornell, which received more than $19.5 million from Chinese telecom firm Huawei and its affiliate entities, is one of the most notable examples.

Meanwhile, a number of schools that were unnamed in the report have also received money and contracts from the Chinese Communist Party itself.

Follow for more on how Beijing is working its influence in some of America’s top universities and institutions.

Sources include:

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