The U.S. Education Department has ordered Georgetown University and Texas A&M University to disclose years of financial records as part of the government entity’s formal investigation into foreign funding at American educational institutions.
According to the Associated Press, both schools were sent letters indicating the Trump administration’s concerns – which recently came into the spotlight after media reports unveiled years of financial backing from Middle Eastern and other foreign countries — that they have not fully reported foreign gifts and contracts they received to the federal government.
Specifically, the letters acquired by the AP accused the schools of failing to report gifts and contract they had obtained which were tied to their branch campuses in the Gulf nation Qatar.
The Department of Education requires that all post-secondary schools report foreign gifts of $250,000 or more from a single source within a calendar year of receiving them.
Georgetown has reportedly received nearly $333 million from Qatar since 2011. Federal law requires colleges and universities to report gifts or contracts with foreign sources over $5250,000 or more annually. This funding has allowed the school to open the Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), which is located in the nation’s capital, Doha.
The AP also noted that “Nearly all of Georgetown’s foreign money reported for 2018 came from sources in Qatar, including $33 million from the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit that has a partnership with Georgetown to support the school’s campus in Qatar.” The Qatar foundation is headed by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
However, Qatar – a nation suspected of having international links to terrorism — is not the only nation from which records of funding are being requested. Federal investigators are reportedly also demanding records of funding from China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
A bipartisan Senate report earlier this year found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. schools took money from a Chinese propaganda program, namely the Ministry of Education Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban in Chinese), and broke the law by failing to properly disclose this to the Department of Education.
According to the report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Since 2006, the Subcommittee determined China directly provided over $158 million in funding to U.S. schools for Confucius Institutes.
Further, the report found that former member of the Chinese government, Li Changchun, said in a 2011 speech that “Confucius Institutes are an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up” and that the program “has made an important contribution toward improving our soft power … Using the excuse of teaching Chinese language, everything looks reasonable and logical.”
Both Georgetown and Texas A&M were also asked to disclose funding from Huawei and ZTE, Chinese firms suspected of spying.
Georgetown was reportedly also asked about possible ties to Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, as well as Saudi Arabian money.
In October it was reported that Georgetown — a Jesuit Catholic university — received $20 million to set up the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU), named after the patron who donated the second-largest gift in university history at the time.
According to the Department of Education, the top foreign funders of American universities between 2011-2016 are Qatar ($1,024,065,043), England ($761,584,394), Saudi Arabia ($613,608,797), China ($426,526,085), Canada ($402,535,603), and Hong Kong ($394,446,859).
Georgetown released a statement in response to the letter saying it “takes seriously its reporting obligations and provides all information as required by the Department of Education every six months.”
Texas A&M also issued a statement. “We just received the document today from the U.S. Department of Education and are reviewing it. We are fully cooperating with the inquiry.”
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