Deception & Misdirection

Keeping a Finger on Foreign Funding in Academia


An encouraging development on Capitol Hill came Thursday when two House Republicans wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona asking for a status update on Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. Section 117 requires institutions of higher education to report large gifts from foreign sources.

Foreign Funding

This is encouraging because, as my colleague Robert Stilson and I began documenting last year, the flow of funding from hostile foreign nations into American nonprofits—mostly institutions of higher education—is greater than most people realize.

As the CRC [Capital Research Center] has detailed and described at length, the State Department issued a press release on Oct. 13 requesting that “think tanks and other foreign policy organizations” publicly disclose any funding that they receive from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises. While not explicitly requiring donor disclosure, the department noted that it “will . . . be mindful of whether disclosure has been made and of specific funding sources” when deciding whether and how to work with a given organization.

Then, there were the recent investigations by the Department of Education showing a disturbing rate of noncompliance with federal laws requiring that universities disclose their foreign funding. Under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, Title IV-eligible schools must report foreign gifts and contracts in excess of $250,000. These investigations reportedly identified a “massive failure of many colleges and universities to disclose more than $6.5 billion in funding and resources from foreign sources.” Yale University, for example, had failed to report even one foreign gift or contract from 2014 through 2017.

Thursday’s Development

The Epoch Times reported Thursday:

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the top Republican on the House Education Committee, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who chairs the conservative caucus Republican Study Committee, said they are concerned that the Education Department is not taking the threat posed by the CCP seriously.

CRC has been analyzing this phenomenon since the State Department began raising the alarm in late 2020, following not only former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s report in October 2020 that roughly $6.5 billion has so far gone undisclosed, but also the funding of Confucius Institutes on school campuses.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted in a speech toward the end of the Trump administration that that the U.S. Department of Education reported American schools had taken in roughly $1.3 billion from China since 2013, mostly in tuition and funding for the Chinese Communist Party–aligned Confucius Institutes.

Confucius Institutes first began popping up on American college campuses in 2004, according to a National Association of Scholars report “Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education.” They originally numbered just over 100. Many more showed up as “Confucius Classrooms” in K–12 schools across the country.

What Next?

Schools have begun closing the institutes due to fears that they were under the ideological control of the Chinese Communist Party’s Ministry of Education, but the fear, according to NAS scholars, is that they aren’t really going away, simply rebranding.

CRC encouraged the Biden administration officials to make the tracking and reporting of these funds a priority as they assumed their leadership positions to avoid being drawn into backdoor influence scheming by foreign nations looking to lobby for their own interests in the world of academia.

Some GOP members are apparently concerned this is not being done.

“Hostile governments and their instrumentalities have targeted the higher education sector for exploitation to infiltrate cutting-edge American research projects, influence curricula, and gain access to systems and information available through overseas ‘campuses’ that receive less rigorous oversight than their domestic counterparts,” Foxx and Banks wrote. “The American public deserves to know that their money is not being compromised by Communist China and other adversarial nations.”

Sarah Lee

Sarah Lee was born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., but found herself drawn to Washington, DC, the birthplace of her mother, after completing a master’s degree in public administration from…
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