Amid federal crackdown, GW reports about $135 million in foreign funds over five years

Amid a nationwide crackdown on foreign gifts to universities, officials reported more than $135 million in foreign contributions between June 2013 and June 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Education records.

More than half of the total amount – about $78.6 million, more than any other university in the U.S. over the same period – originated from the Saudi Arabian government through tuition payments for students attending GW, according to the data. Title IV-eligible universities, including GW, are required to report foreign gifts and contributions in excess of $250,000 to the Education Department twice a year.

The department has intensified its scrutiny on foreign gifts to universities in recent months, proposing formal guidance for foreign gift reporting and opening investigations into Yale and Harvard universities last month for potentially failing to disclose "hundreds of millions of dollars" in foreign gifts and contracts, including those from Saudi Arabia.

The proposed regulations have received criticism from higher education organizations for the costs associated with meeting the new guidelines. University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said in November that the new guidance was proposed with "little input" from the higher education community and will require administrators at GW to hire additional staff to track foreign gifts.

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said the proposed regulations are intended to increase "transparency" and hold universities accountable.

"If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom," DeVos said in the release. "Moreover, it's what the law requires. Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all."

Foreign gifts and contracts have also received increased criticism in recent years over concerns of intellectual property theft and the human rights' records of giving countries. Nosal in January declined to take a position on criticisms of ties between the U.S. and China and Saudi Arabia.

GW's foreign gift and contract total ranked fourth out of its 12 peer schools in fiscal year 2019, behind New York, Boston and Georgetown universities and the University of Southern California. Northeastern, Syracuse and Tulane universities and the University of Rochester did not report any foreign gifts or contracts that met the $250,000 threshold during the last fiscal year.

GW Foreign Donations

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