Harvard, Yale face exams on foreign funding

World | REUTERS 14 Feb 2020

The US Department of Education has opened an investigation into whether Harvard and Yale universities failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.

It is thought Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, may not have reported at least US$375 million (HK$2.91 billion) in foreign money over the last four years. "This is about transparency," Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said. "If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom."

Federal law requires most colleges and universities to report gifts from and contracts with foreign sources that exceed US$250,000 twice a year.

Records over the last three decades show US universities and colleges have reported more than US$6.6 billion in donations from China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. "This sum may be significantly underestimated," officials said.

Yale received a request from the department for records of certain gifts and contracts from foreign sources under the Higher Education Act, said university spokeswoman Karen Peart.

Education officials said they are also concerned that Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, lacked the proper controls over foreign money and may have not fully reported all donations and contracts from outside the United States.

Two weeks ago, Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and two Chinese nationals who were researchers at Boston University and a Boston hospital were charged by the Justice Department with lying about their purported links to Beijing. In a report about China's impact on education in the United States, a Senate committee described foreign spending on US schools as "a black hole" because colleges and universities routinely fail to comply with the law.

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