The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has opened an ongoing investigation into an aggregate $6.5 billion in unreported cash gifts donated by foreign nations to America’s leading universities. China, Iran, Russia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, according to The Wall Street Journal, among the most prominent foreign countries that made gifts that exceeded $250,000 annually, the total which requires reporting to federal authorities.
DOE documents reveal that, in some cases, the universities actively solicited foreign funding from nations potentially looking to steal research or “spread propaganda benefiting foreign governments.” The foreign donors, the DOE’s probe discovered, showed that “opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue” have been used to disguise actual funding sources.
Harvard and Yale universities are the DOE’s principal targets. In January, federal authorities charged Harvard’s chemistry department chair, Charles Lieber, with lying about the university’s Chinese grants. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Lieber had established, apparently without Harvard’s knowledge, a research lab in China’s central city of Wuhan.
Separate letters from the DOE’s principal deputy general counsel Reed Rubinstein to Yale President Peter Salovey and Harvard President Lawrence Bacow accused the universities of, respectively, not reporting “a single foreign source gift or contract” from 2014 to 2017, despite having sites in dozens of countries, and lacking “appropriate institutional controls.” Last year, DOE sent similar letters to Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, Cornell University, Rutgers University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland.
In Yale’s case, the DOE letter further specifically requested all records from the school related to gifts or contracts from Saudi Arabia, Saudi nationals, China, Huawei Technologies and ZTE, a multinational telecommunications company.
Congress, through its own subcommittee investigation, should have braced itself. Because colleges and universities routinely flout the law, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations described foreign spending on U.S. schools as “a black hole.” The subcommittee warned that foreign money can come with strings attached that might compromise academic freedom.
The universities’ scandalous disregard for the law bodes poorly for Americans and especially for U.S. high school students hopeful of gaining admission to one of the nation’s prestigious universities. Globalism rules, and elitists are already winning the on-campus battle for career-building freshman slots that displace worthy, qualified high school seniors. The 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange showed that the number of foreign nationals studying in the U.S. set an all-time high in the 2018/19 academic year, the fourth consecutive year with more than 1 million international students enrolled.
A close look at the Open Doors report is telling. For the tenth consecutive year, China sent the most students to U.S. colleges with 369,548 students in undergraduate, graduate, non-degree and optional practical training (OPT) programs.
Others in the top five sending countries are India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada. Included in this academic year’s 1.095 million international students are 223,085 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students who can remain in the country on their student visas for up to 36 months as part of the OPT program – never congressionally approved – that allows them to compete with or displace U.S. tech workers in the labor market. More than half of all international foreign-born students enrolled in U.S. universities majored in a STEM field last year. Math and computer science majors increased 9.4 percent from the previous year for international students, surpassing business and management as their second most popular major.
Here’s a disappointing footnote to the disturbing, ugly university tale. Texas A&M, Rutgers and Maryland are designated land-grant universities. In 1862, the Morrill Act granted eligible states 30,000 acres of land to colleges that would focus on teaching practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering to citizen residents. The Morrill Act was designed to improve the present and future lives of local students. At no time was the legislation intended to encourage international student enrollment or to solicit overseas funding.
The universities will have a lot to answer for, assuming they are ever in front of a judge and jury. For now, however, the schools claim to have righted their ships, and are proceeding in accordance with the law.