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House Republicans Probe Chinese Funding

May 5, 2020

The ranking Republicans on seven congressional committees wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Monday to request information on the department’s investigations of foreign funds flowing into American universities. The letter asks for documents and preliminary findings related to the inquiry into U.S. universities' compliance with federal reporting requirements for all gifts and contracts from foreign sources valued at $250,000 or more.

The letter expresses concerns “about the potential for the Chinese government to use its strategic investments to turn American college campuses into indoctrination platforms for American students.” It further raises the question of whether U.S. colleges “receiving federal taxpayer dollars should be allowed to accept funds from China, the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], or other affiliated organizations.”

The Education Department has opened investigations into foreign gifts at at least nine different universities, most recently requesting documents regarding the University of Texas system’s relationship with a virology lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan that U.S. officials are investigating as a possible source of the coronavirus outbreak. (There is no publicly available evidence to support the theory that the outbreak originated at the lab.)

The lawmakers wrote that their “inquiry is in furtherance of Congressional Republican’s [sic] efforts to investigate the Chinese government’s propaganda and cover-up campaign surrounding this pandemic.”​

The Education Department's investigations have so far led to the reporting of approximately $6.5 billion in previously unreported foreign gifts and contracts.

A spokeswoman for the department, Angela Morabito, said DeVos "is grateful for the support of these members of Congress as we continue our work to hold institutions accountable for accurately reporting their foreign gifts and contracts." Morabito added, "American students and taxpayers deserve transparency from schools that receive funding from foreign countries and individuals or their agents. This work is especially important because we know some institutions solicit and accept large sums of foreign funding from nations hostile to our national security and economic interests."

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Elizabeth Redden

Elizabeth Redden, Senior Reporter, covers general higher education topics, religion and higher education, and international higher education for Inside Higher Ed. She has more than a decade of experience as an education journalist. She holds an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

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