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Dept. of Education Opens Investigation into Harvard, Yale over Chinese, Saudi Funding

The campus of Yale University in 2012 (Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

The Education Department has opened an investigation into Harvard and Yale amid suspicions that the Ivy League schools failed to report about hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from foreign countries, some of which are openly hostile to the U.S.

Officials said in a letter this week that they are probing whether the universities accepted about $375 million from China, Iran, Russia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In some cases, the schools actively sought out the foreign funding from sources potentially looking to steal research or “spread propaganda benefiting foreign governments,” according to Education Department documents. The funding did not, however, go towards reducing tuition costs for students.

Universities are required by law to report gifts and contracts from foreign sources worth more than $250,000 per year.

Last month, the chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department, Charles Lieber, was charged with lying to federal officials about grants from China, sparking the government’s closer look at the university’s foreign funding.

The Education Department has sent letters to both Harvard and Yale requesting all documents on foreign funding and gifts. Neither university has responded yet to the news of the investigation.

The probe comes as the Education Department has cracked down on foreign funding siphoned to U.S. universities, which the department described as, “multibillion-dollar, multinational enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue.”

A review by the department has since July found a total of at least $6.5 billion in unreported foreign funding to U.S. universities from countries like Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“This is about transparency. If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

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