New bill would penalize colleges that lie about foreign funding

The REPORT Fines Act would levy financial penalties on colleges that fail to report their foreign gifts and contracts.

This move follows the Trump administration's discovery that many major universities had not accurately reported their foreign funding as required by law.

Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) and Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) have introduced a bill that would penalize colleges that fail to accurately report their foreign financial ties to the federal government. 

The Requiring Education Providers to Observe Requirements or Trigger Fines Act, called the REPORT Fines Act, would create a system in which colleges could lose their federal research funding if they repeatedly fail to come clean about how much foreign money they receive. 

[RELATED: Republicans introduce legislation to require colleges to report all foreign gifts]

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires colleges to report to the government the amount of foreign funding they receive from a single source that totals more than $250,000 per year. The law lacks a significant enforcement mechanism, and the Trump administration found $6.5 billion in under-reporting of foreign money as a result. 

The REPORT Act would lower the reporting threshold from $250,000 to $50,000, thus preventing smaller donors from abroad from flying under the government’s radar. 

According to the press release, the bill “establishes a strike system ranging from a written warning, to fines equivalent to the gift, and finally disqualification from federal research funding.”

[RELATED: GOP lawmakers demand UPenn Biden Center release foreign donation records]

Harshbarger and Keller’s concern over foreign gifts and contracts is shared by their colleagues Rep. Virginia Foxx and Rep. Jim Banks. The latter pair of representatives sent a letter to Secretary Cardona in mid-June asking him how the Department of Education is enforcing Section 117.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito