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Education Dept. Probing Georgetown, Texas A&M Over Foreign Funding

Two universities are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for potentially concealing foreign gifts from the federal government, The Associated Press reported.

Georgetown University and Texas A&M University have been accused of receiving foreign funds from Gulf nations, including a Russian cybersecurity company, the Kaspersky Lab.

The Department of Education sent a letter to both universities ordering them to disclose financial records from previous years and any links they may have to Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE.

Since 2012, Georgetown has received nearly $415 million from foreign sources while Texas A&M has received $285 million since 2014. A major part of the funding received in 2018 came from the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit based in Qatar.

In the case that the universities are in violation of Department policies, the letter warns of legal action, financial penalties and compliance by the U.S. attorney general’s office.

Lately, the U.S. has been alarmed by China’s influence on higher education institutes in the country. Earlier this year, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations compiled a report on China-funded Confucius Institutes and found that the Chinese government has spent more than $150 million on the institutes over the last decade to limit criticism of its political policies in America.

The subcommittee’s probe lasted eight months and found that the Chinese institutes threaten academic freedom by having access to the American educational system. Investigators also reported that many U.S. schools failed to properly report the contributions they received from the Chinese government to fund the Confucius Institutes.

Last month, Emory University fired two of its professors for failing to disclose funding from and ties to Chinese institutions. The school shut down their laboratory after the National Institutes of Health (NIH) flagged their financial ties with Chinese institutions. The university also asked four postdoctoral students working in the lab to leave the country within 30 days.

Both the universities said that they have been complying with federal guidelines on receiving foreign funds and signing contracts, and have extended their full cooperation for the inquiry.

“We just received the document today from the U.S. Department of Education and are reviewing it,” Texas A&M said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with the inquiry.”

Similarly, Georgetown University officials said that the school “takes seriously its reporting obligations and provides all information as required by the Department of Education every six months.”

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