“The People’s Republic of China—in reality, the Chinese Communist Party—seeks to displace the United States as the world’s most powerful nation and is working to influence America’s educational institutions in aid of that strategic goal. Yet, in the face of this bid to eclipse American power, the Biden administration has inexplicably closed the federal investigations meant to expose the CCP’s influence and keep it in check. Since launching in 2021, DFI has worked to expose the Biden administration’s weakened oversight of efforts by the CCP and its proxies to use generous gifts and contracts to unduly influence our universities, colleges, and schools. That critical work in this area continues today.”Bob Eitel, President & Co-Founder of DFI
Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires colleges and universities that receive taxpayer support to provide semi-annual disclosures to the U.S. Department of Education (the “Department”) of foreign gifts and contracts from foreign sources that, alone or combined, are valued at $250,000 or more in a calendar year (20 U.S.C. § 1011f). Congress enacted Section 117 because of growing concerns about the financial relationship between universities and foreign sources and the national security implications for the United States.
The Department is responsible for enforcement of Section 117’s disclosure requirements. For decades, many universities have pursued generous financial incentives from Chinese government sources and have ignored this easily understood law.
Beginning in 2019, Secretary Betsy DeVos directed the Department to enforce Section 117. The Department provided clear guidance to universities, announced multiple civil investigations related to widespread compliance failures, and simplified reporting mechanisms through the creation of a “reporting portal” for universities. The portal was also created to allow the public to access foreign source information provided by universities to the Department.
In October of 2020, the Department issued a comprehensive report revealing massive Section 117 compliance failures by some of America’s most prestigious and sophisticated universities – which had taken billions of dollars in previously undisclosed foreign funding.
The Biden administration has repeatedly failed to enforce Section 117 disclosures by universities. DFI is working to expose these weakened oversight efforts concerning efforts by the CCP and its proxies to use generous gifts and contracts to unduly influence universities and colleges.
- Section 117 (the statute)
- College Foreign Gift Reporting Portal (U.S. Department of Education)
- Letter to FBI Director Wray on CCP Transnational Repression, U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP (April 2023)
- Higher Ed Should Disclose China Ties or Lose Federal Funding, Robert S. Eitel & Paul R. Moore, Real Clear Education (February 2023)
- Letter to FBI Director Wray on CCP Police Stations, U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP (February 2023)
- Letter to Secretary Yellen about PRC Spy Balloon, U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP (February 2023)
- Countering Threats Posed by the Chinese Government Inside the U.S., FBI Director Christopher Wray (January 2022)
- GAO Report, Federal Research: Agencies Need to Enhance Policies to Address Foreign Influence (December 2020)
- Report on Institutional Compliance with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (October 2020)
- Letter from Secretaries DeVos and Pompeo to College and University Presidents Warning of CCP Penetration Efforts on Campuses (October 2020)
- Letter from Under Secretary of State Keith Krach Warning of CCP Threat to Governing Boards of American Universities (August 2020)
- China’s Impact on the U.S. Education System, Staff Report, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, United States Senate (February 2019)