College Foreign Cash at Risk as Senate Targets China’s Clout
A broad attempt by Congress to stem China’s influence could put at risk research collaborations and funding that U.S. universities count on by subjecting some foreign gifts and contracts to national security reviews.
Senators are seeking increased oversight of grants and contracts to universities from overseas as part of a bipartisan package of legislation designed to increase U.S. competitiveness with China in science and technology.
The proposal would give U.S. national security officials new authority to scrutinize foreign gifts and contracts of more than $1 million to schools if the funding is related to research and development of “critical technologies” and provides access to material nonpublic technical information.
The American Council on Education said it identified about 700 contracts and gifts that were reported to the Department of Education worth $1 million or more in 2019 that could potentially be subject to national security reviews under the proposal. The trade group said the proposal could “severely hinder” international research collaborations.
Although funding from any overseas source would be subject to scrutiny, the target of the measure is clear.
“We don’t allow people who are running for public office, or who are in public office, to accept money from China,” said Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. “Why would we allow these institutions that engage in this important enterprise of educating Americans, why would we allow them to be influenced by money from the Chinese Communist Party?”
The proposal comes as there is a growing bipartisan sentiment in Congress to confront the challenge of China’s growing economic and diplomatic power. It is included in a bill being worked on in the Foreign Relations Committee that is expected to be part of a package of legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young intended to bolster U.S. competitiveness on a variety of fronts. They plan to introduce the measure soon, and Schumer has said he wants the Senate to pass it in the coming weeks.
U.S. Education Department data show that China sent $226 million to colleges in the U.S. between July 2019 and last September, the most of any country. That was followed by England, with $202 million, Australia at $170 million, Canada at $158 million and Saudi Arabia with $131 million.