Objections to Foreign Gift Reporting Request

  • Section 117 of the Higher Education Act (HEA) requires U.S. colleges to report gifts from a foreign source if they total $250,000 or more within a calendar year.
  • The Department of Education (ED) published a notice on September 6, 2019, of a new proposed form to collect information about gifts and contracts from foreign sources, however, the drafted instructions are not clear.
  • On November 5, 2019, the American Council on Education and 29 other higher education organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education raising concerns about the proposed information collection request from ED.
  • The higher education groups argue that the scope of the proposed information collection goes beyond the scope of the law and many other things.
  • Among the specific issues addressed in the 16-page letter, the groups state that the proposed requirement that institutions provide the government with a “true copy” of gift agreements and contracts would risk the disclosure of intellectual property and proprietary information.
  • The groups also argue that a proposed requirement that individual foreign donors be identified with names and addresses raises privacy concerns.
  • The Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) also sent a letter raising similar concerns and urging ED, among other things, to clarify, “if in fact, the intent is to collect information on all foreign gifts and contracts regardless of amount, ED needs to cite the legal authority for departing from the statutorily mandated threshold.”