For­eign money to col­leges un­der re­view

The News-Times - - NATION/WORLD -

The U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment has opened in­ves­ti­ga­tions into for­eign fund­ing at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity and Texas A&M Univer­sity as part of a broader push to mon­i­tor in­ter­na­tional money flow­ing to Amer­i­can col­leges.

Both uni­ver­si­ties are be­ing or­dered to disclose years of fi­nan­cial records amid con­cerns they have not fully re­ported their for­eign gifts and con­tracts to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to let­ters sent to the schools Thurs­day and ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The in­quiries are part of a broader cam­paign to scru­ti­nize for­eign fund­ing go­ing to uni­ver­si­ties and to im­prove re­port­ing by schools, ac­cord­ing to a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the ef­fort.

More schools prob­a­bly will face ques­tion­ing as fed­eral of­fi­cials fo­cus on an is­sue they see as cru­cial to trans­parency and national security, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to pub­licly discuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Fed­eral law re­quires U.S. col­leges to report con­tracts and do­na­tions from for­eign sources to­tal­ing $250,000 or more, but past fil­ings from Ge­orge­town and Texas A&M “may not fully cap­ture” that in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to the let­ters.

As an ex­am­ple, depart­ment of­fi­cials wrote, both schools should have re­ported fund­ing re­lated to branch cam­puses they op­er­ate in Qatar, an oil­rich nation in the Mideast that hosts the out­posts of sev­eral U.S. col­leges.

The records be­ing sought by in­ves­ti­ga­tors go far be­yond Qatar, though, and in­clude deal­ings with China, Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia, and spe­cific com­pa­nies in those na­tions.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors or­dered both schools to disclose fund­ing from Huawei or ZTE, the Chi­nese tech giants that some U.S. of­fi­cials call a threat to national security. Ge­orge­town is be­ing asked to de­tail money it re­ceived from any sources in Saudi Ara­bia or Rus­sia, in­clud­ing Kasper­sky Lab, a Rus­sian cy­ber­se­cu­rity com­pany.

The let­ters warn that Ge­orge­town and Texas A&M could face le­gal ac­tion and fi­nan­cial penal­ties if they're found to have bro­ken the rules.

If in­ves­ti­ga­tors find a vi­o­la­tion, it can be re­ferred to the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral's of­fice for ac­tion “to com­pel com­pli­ance and to re­cover the full costs“’ of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and en­force­ment, ac­cord­ing to the let­ters.

Ge­orge­town of­fi­cials said the school is re­view­ing the let­ter and will co­op­er­ate with the in­quiry. The univer­sity said in a state­ment that it “takes se­ri­ously its re­port­ing obli­ga­tions and pro­vides all in­for­ma­tion as re­quired by the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion every six months.”

The crack­down fol­lows com­plaints from some law­mak­ers that the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment hasn't done enough to re­view for­eign fund­ing to col­leges. The is­sue has gained at­ten­tion amid height­ened ten­sions with China and some other na­tions.

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