The Department of Education has announced the availability of a new reporting portal as it moves forward with changes in college and university foreign gift reporting requirements under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. The announcement came just ahead of the next reporting deadline for foreign gifts on July 31, which will be the first time the portal must be used in lieu of the old reporting mechanism that was contained within ED’s Federal Student Aid E-App .
ED first proposed changes to these requirements in fall 2019, and the proposal immediately drew concern from the higher education community. NACUBO, in several comment letters led by the American Council on Education, pushed back on many of the expanded disclosures that ED proposed. The higher education community also urged ED to delay implementation of the new requirements in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but the agency has declined to do so.
While the new requirements do not change the $250,000 threshold that triggers reporting, institutions now must submit more information “about each reportable transaction involving a foreign source,” including “whether the foreign source is a foreign government, a foreign legal entity, an individual who is not a citizen or national of the United States, or a person acting as an agent of a foreign source.” Full reporting requirements are available in ED’s official notice.
As ED moves forward with more stringent reporting requirements, Congress also has taken an interest in tightening these regulations. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has held multiple hearings on “foreign influence” at college and university campuses. The chairman and the ranking member of that subcommittee, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE), have introduced bipartisan legislation that would lower the reporting threshold for colleges and universities from $250,000 to $50,000 and give ED expanded authority to penalize schools for reporting failures, among other expanded requirements.
NACUBO continues to urge lawmakers and regulators to strike a balance on foreign gift reporting that doesn’t impose an unnecessarily high compliance burden on schools or provide more reporting documents than ED has the capacity to review, and that protects the privacy of individual donors, while still allowing for sufficient oversight of foreign gifts.