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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Joins Comments on Foreign Gifts and Contracts Disclosures

    Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst
    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations

    The AAMC Nov. 5 joined comments led by the American Council on Education (ACE) in response to the Department of Education’s (ED) proposed information request (Docket No. ED-2019-ICCD-0114) concerning foreign gifts and contracts disclosures required under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

    Sec. 117 currently requires colleges and universities to file reports twice a year with ED regarding contacts or gifts from foreign entities, including foreign governments, corporations, foreign citizens, and other non-government entities, that have a “value of which is $250,000 or more, considered alone or in combination with other gifts of contacts with that foreign source within a calendar year.”

    ED is seeking feedback on a new proposed form for the collection of data regarding these financial disclosures. The comment letter notes “aspects of the proposed information collection would go far beyond the plain language of Sec. 117, clearly directing institutions to make disclosures — with no statutory basis — of a vastly expanded amount of information and documents.” The comments continue, “The manner in which other aspects of the proposed information collection is organized and written makes the information collection subject to differing reasonable interpretations, with some of those interpretations also well beyond what Sec. 117 requires.”

    The comment letter raised concerns regarding how ED’s information collection request:

    • Implies that all foreign gifts and contracts are to be reported.
    • Requires reporting of information not covered by the statute or legislative history.
    • Includes foreign student payments and tuition as a reportable gift.
    • Vastly underestimates the burden and cost of reporting all gifts.

    While the comments highlight apprehensions regarding ED’s proposal, they do note that “the higher education community takes seriously recent security concerns raised by federal policymakers regarding undue foreign influence. We share a strong interest with the government in safeguarding the integrity of government-funded research and intellectual property resulting from it.”