Both Tennessee Senators Introduce Bill Enforcing Transparency on Foreign Funding in Higher Education

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) are calling for increased transparency for the foreign funding in higher education. The Foreign Funding Accountability Act will target Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. That law requires universities to submit biannual reports on all foreign gifts and contract transactions. The Department of Education reported last October that many colleges and universities fail to comply with Section 117. 

The two Tennessee senators introduced the Foreign Funding Accountability Act alongside Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Tim Scott (R-SC). China was identified as the main foreign actor that spurred the legislation. The bill would require the full names of all levels of foreign donating entities and the purpose(s) for those gift-transactions, close the loopholes allowing gifting by registered foreign agents and exempting in-kind gifts from counting towards the disclosure minimum, lower the minimum reporting threshold for disclosure in terms of dollar amount to $25,000, and levy a graduated civil penalty structure against higher education institutions that willfully and repeatedly violate Section 117.

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