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Ernst Works to Deter Malicious Foreign Influence in Postsecondary Education

“Gifts often come with strings attached, especially when they’re from the Chinese Communist Party.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined colleagues in introducing the Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions (DETERRENT) Act to bring transparency, accountability, and clarity to foreign gift reporting requirements for American colleges and universities. Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) co-introduced the legislation.

The legislation follows oversight efforts that uncovered the Biden administration’s failure to open a single investigation under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act—the biggest enforcement tool to protect against the threats posed by foreign adversaries. A Senate report from 2019 found that up to 70% of all institutions failed to comply with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. Section 117’s loose legislative language, Biden’s blatant crippling of enforcement efforts, and institutions’ refusal to adhere to the law have resulted in billions of dollars in foreign funds infiltrating our country undetected.

“Gifts often come with strings attached, especially when they’re from the Chinese Communist Party,” said Ernst. “I’m proud to work with my colleagues to prevent malign foreign entities from infiltrating our universities, stealing our technologies, and compromising our national security. It’s past time we unwrap this influence-buying scheme.”


  • Slashes the foreign gift reporting threshold for colleges and universities from $250,000 down to $50,000, with an even stricter $0 threshold for countries of concern.
  • Closes reporting loopholes and provides transparency to Congress, intelligence agencies, and the public.
  • Requires disclosure of foreign gifts to individual staff and faculty at research-heavy institutions to protect those targeted the most by our adversaries.
  • Holds our largest private institutions accountable for their financial partnerships by revealing concerning foreign investments in their endowments.
  • Implements a series of repercussions for colleges and universities that remain noncompliant in foreign gift reporting such as fines and the loss of Title IV funding.

A one-pager of the legislation is available here. Full text of the legislation can be found here.