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Colleges are pushing back on efforts by the Department of Education to step up enforcement of foreign gift reporting requirements, as outlined in a “notification of interpretation” published in the Federal Register in November.

A letter from the American Council on Education on behalf of ACE and 26 other higher education groups argues that the department is requesting more information on foreign gifts than colleges are required by law to provide. The letter also disputes the department’s assertion that the failure to report on foreign gifts constitutes a violation of Title IV program participation agreements. Colleges found to be in violation of Title IV program participation agreements stand to potentially lose eligibility for their students to participate in federal financial aid programs.

The ACE letter -- which is accompanied by an opinion from a law firm -- further criticizes the department’s “combative” approach to enforcement of foreign gift reporting requirements.

The Education Department did not comment Tuesday. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has previously criticized colleges' “pervasive noncompliance” with the federal statute requiring reporting of foreign gifts or contracts of $250,000 or more, and has said investigations initiated by the department have resulted in disclosures of about $6.5 billion in previously unreported foreign gifts and contracts.