Many American colleges and universities failed to disclose more than $6.5 billion in funding and resources from foreign sources including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos unveiled a report last week detailing the massive failure.
“The threat of improper foreign influence in higher education is real,” DeVos said in a statement. “Transparency in foreign funding of higher education is not just something I think is a good thing; it’s the law. For too long, enforcement of that law was lax, but not anymore.”
The investigation by The Education Department was part of an effort to enforce a 1986 law requiring U.S. universities to disclose gifts and contracts of $250,000 or more from foreign sources. With colleges going decades with little or no oversight, the law has become a priority for the Trump administration amid concerns over economic espionage and trade secret theft from abroad.
The department investigated 12 universities: Case Western Reserve, Cornell, Fordham, Harvard, Georgetown, Rutgers, Stanford, Texas A&M and Yale Universities; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Universities of Maryland and Texas and found billions in unreported financial ties.
The Education Department established an online portal in June to make it easier for schools to report foreign gifts and contracts valued at more than $250,000, the portal recorded more than 7,000 transactions totaling nearly $4 billion. Federal investigators found that some schools misreported the amounts of money they received.
The Washington Free Beacon reported at least two universities “failed to accurately account” for funding that went to campuses located in Doha, Qatar. The Qatari government partially funded both campuses, fostering concerns that Qatar “exerted its financial influence to stifle free speech.”
The report found at least 60 of the colleges and universities that filed through the portal had not submitted any reports between 1986 and June 2020. Their disclosures alone totaled more than $350 million during the July reporting period.
It was also found that every school investigated received funds from Huawei, the Chinese technology giant which has been deemed a national-security threat by the U.S. government . The company had targeted the majority of its higher education funding on issues important to national security, including nuclear science, robotics and online cloud services.
One U.S. university was found to be working with Chinese companies on a research project involving crowd surveillance and predictive AI behavior, “which the Chinese government could potentially harness for nefarious purposes,” according to the Education Department.