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AAMC Joins Higher Ed Community Comments on Foreign Gift Reporting

March 13, 2020

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Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

The AAMC on March 11 joined comments by the American Council on Education (ACE) in response to the Department of Education’s revised proposed information request (Docket No. ED-2019-ICCD-0114) concerning foreign gifts and contracts disclosures.

Those disclosures are required under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The department is seeking feedback on a new proposed form for the collection of data regarding these financial disclosures.

The revised information collection request (ICR) was released after the department withdrew its initial inquiry to expand institutional reporting by requiring the “true copies” of contracts from foreign entities [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 7].

The comments state that the higher education community recognizes “that the Department has incorporated changes from the revised ICR issued in December, which narrowed the information being sought.” However, “the Department’s Feb. 2020 ICR still exceeds the disclosure reporting required under the statutory authority set out in Sec. 117.”

The comment letter raised concerns regarding how the department’s information collection:

  • Surpasses the statutory basis for requiring reporting of individual names of all gifts and contracts.
  • Does not overcome the statute’s expectation that no names would be required by promising [Freedom of Information Act] FOIA protection.
  • Jeopardizes the safety, and invades the privacy, of any donor or recipient of a gift without statutory authorization.

While the comments highlight apprehensions among stakeholders regarding the department’s proposal, they note that “the higher education community takes seriously the risk to our institutions from illicit technology transfer and undue foreign influence” and is “committed to complying with our obligations to report foreign gift and contract information under Section 117 (Sec. 117) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA).”

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