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Hearing Recap: Foreign Influence on College Campuses Edition

Yesterday’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing exposed the growing threat of malign foreign influence within our nation’s colleges and universities.

Subcommittee Chairman Burgess Owens (R-UT) said in his opening statement, “China and other foreign adversaries are determined to undermine America’s national interests and infect our political discourse. The modern battleground now includes college and university campuses and our students’ young minds.”

Section 117 in the Higher Education Act is the single biggest enforcement tool to protect against the threats posed by our foreign adversaries. Section 117 gives the American people transparency by requiring institutions of higher education to disclose a gifts of $250,000 or more from foreign entities.

Following the law should not be controversial, but the Biden administration and many of our "top" universities pretend otherwise.

In the opening round of questioning with Chairman Owens, Paul Moore, former Trump administration official, stated how universities were “already systematically tracking foreign contracts [and] gifts” but were “extremely reluctant” to follow the law and disclose that information.

A Senate report found that up to 70 percent of all institutions fail to comply with section 117 and those do comply often underreport the funds they receive. Instead of seriously addressing this threat, the Biden administration has sat on the sidelines.

In fact, the Department of Education has failed to open a single section 117 investigation during the Biden presidency and, even worse, crippled existing enforcement efforts.

The Department put the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) in charge of section 117 enforcement, a move that Mr. Moore said would “downgrade the investigative potential” and “doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Biden’s inaction has encouraged schools to shirk their responsibilities and not disclose foreign contracts. This is disturbing given foreign dollars often come with strings attached and have very real consequences.

In response to questions from Rep. John James (R-MI), Mr. Craig Singleton, China Program Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, pointed out how China has stolen and “harnessed technologies developed by U.S. universities” to suppress freedom across the globe. Such research and university relationships “play a major role” in China’s military-industrial complex.

Moreover, our adversaries intentionally target institutions with direct ties to leaders in the federal government. Consider the case of the University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) Biden Center. Unsurprisingly, as Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) noted, UPenn’s foreign donations spiked after the Biden Center was opened, with UPenn receiving $115 million in foreign donations between 2017-2021 alone. Nine associates formerly on the payroll of the Center currently hold high-level positions in the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Sadly, instead of using the hearing as an opportunity to discuss solutions to counter our nations adversaries, Democrats falsely accused Republicans of focusing only on China and creating fear for Asian-Americans. Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) pointed out that combating foreign influence from any adversary protects students of all backgrounds. In her questions to Mr. Singleton, Chairwoman Foxx highlighted bipartisan legislation that recently passed in the state of Florida that was also supported by Florida universities. Chairwoman Foxx pointed out how “national security should be a bipartisan issue” and urged colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join Republicans in these efforts.

“The threat to America’s national security interests is very real and growing,” Moore concluded in his testimony. Adversarial countries are using America’s college campuses to undermine our nation’s interests by stifling free speech, censoring curricula, monitoring student activities, disseminating propaganda, and stealing cutting-edge American research projects.

Bottom line: Foreign influence in our education institutions must be met with a swift, decisive response, and Committee Republicans are delivering.
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