The U.S. Department of Education unveiled its new foreign gift and contract reporting portal on June 22, 2020. The portal's launch is the culmination of months of contentious effort by the department to implement the requirements of
Section 117 of the Higher Education Act (20 USC 1011f)—34 years after the provision was first incorporated into law.
The statutory language of Section 117 requires U.S. institutions that receive federal funds, or that are owned or controlled by a foreign entity, to disclose foreign grants or contracts in excess of $250,000 to the secretary of education by the earliest deadline of January 31 or July 31 of each year.
While the statute authorizes the secretary to promulgate regulations to implement the law, the department has never regulated Section 117, nor has it ever published a form to inform and assist institutions with their legal compliance requirements. The governing sub-regulatory guidance on this provision prior to the department's announcement was a Dear Colleague letter that dates back to 2004. That guidance has now been rescinded and replaced with the information collection requirements embedded in the new portal.
AASCU and other higher education advocacy groups in Washington
strongly objected to the overbroad, intrusive and burdensome requirements that the department has implemented in this information collection effort, which in multiple areas goes beyond statutory authority and for which the department has failed to publish regulations.Additionally, the launch of the portal with less than a 40-day deadline for submission of data by institutions during a pandemic imposes an unreasonable compliance burden, which will further hamper institutional operations during a public health and financial crisis. AASCU has, therefore, joined other higher education groups
seeking a delay in the implementation of the new requirements. Unless the department provides a respite by postponing the mandatory submission of data by July 31, however, institutions will be required to populate the new portal with
the detailed information it seeks instead of simply responding to question 71 of their E-Apps.