Congress’s Missed Opportunity to Curb Foreign Influence in Higher Education

This piece was originally published in the SCIF, the blog of the National Security Institute.


The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, signed into law earlier this year, creates a new reporting regime for American colleges and universities, requiring them to disclose contributions from foreign sources to the National Science Foundation (NSF) if they also receive federal research grants. The measure is intended to address growing bipartisan concern that foreign financial relationships pose a risk to American higher education, the research enterprise, and our national security.

Despite this, Congress has failed to reform the Higher Education Act of 1965 to strengthen the Department of Education’s oversight of foreign contributions to postsecondary institutions. This was a missed opportunity: both the Senate and House of Representatives included language to do so in their respective competition bills, the U.S Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and America COMPETES Act.

Since 1986, Congress has required American colleges and universities to disclose gifts and contracts totaling more than $250,000 to the Department of Education under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. Thanks to this law, we know that American postsecondary institutions reported $1.1 billion in payments from foreign sources in 2021 alone, and that colleges and universities have received a total of $27 billion in foreign gifts and contracts since 2010. But even with this reporting, the full scope of foreign influence on American campuses is likely still undercounted.

Click here to read the full piece in the SCIF.

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