Continuing his campaign against Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes on U.S. campuses, Senator Marco Rubio has proposed adding provisions to a forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that would make colleges’ eligibility for some federal funding conditional upon the closure of their institutes.
“Title VI of the Higher Education Act provides federal grants for foreign studies programs,” Rubio wrote in a letter to the leadership of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, whose members are working on a draft bipartisan bill to reauthorize the HEA. “When a college or university accepts a Confucius Institute, it should become ineligible for a proportional amount of federal funding.”
Rubio, a Republican from Florida, also proposed introducing language to the Higher Ed Act that would require colleges to report any foreign gift of $50,000 or more to the secretary of education, and require them to count in-kind gifts and services from foreign donors toward that threshold. Currently universities only have to disclose foreign gifts worth $250,000 or more.
Spokespeople for the chair of the Senate HELP committee and its ranking Democratic member did not comment on Rubio’s proposals Wednesday afternoon.
Rubio has emerged in recent months as a leading critic of what he describes as Chinese government efforts to influence teaching and research activities of American universities through the Confucius Institutes, centers of Chinese language and cultural education that are housed by about 100 American universities. Critics worry that the institutes represent a threat to the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of their host universities, while advocates say they offer valuable vehicles for academic and cultural exchange and provide welcome new resources for foreign language and cultural study at a time when American government funding for those objectives has diminished.