Blackburn, Tillis Lead Effort To Deter Malicious Foreign Influence In Postsecondary Education

December 6, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) led their colleagues in introducing the Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions (DETERRENT) Act, legislation that brings much needed transparency, accountability, and clarity to foreign gift reporting requirements for American colleges and universities.

“While our adversaries pick up the pace in their malign influence campaigns, we must do everything we can to protect our citizens. As long as there are relaxed rules for reporting foreign gifts and money in our academic institutions, Communist China and the New Axis of Evil will exploit it as an avenue to influence and infiltrate American education. This legislation is a critically important component of loosening the grip that bad actors have on our universities,” said Senator Blackburn.

“America’s foreign adversaries, including the Chinese Communist Party, are targeting our nation’s students by stealing research, spewing anti-American propaganda, and censoring free speech by providing American academic institutions with lucrative funding opportunities. Too often, schools fail to report these foreign gifts and funding, leaving our adversaries with an undetected stranglehold on U.S. academic institutions. This legislation is a crucial step towards transparency and protecting American education and students from malicious foreign influence,” said Senator Tillis.


  • 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.


  • The legislation follows oversight efforts uncovering the Biden Administration’s failure to open a single investigation under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act—the single biggest enforcement tool to protect against the threats posed by foreign adversaries.
  • A Senate report from 2019 found that up to 70 percent 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. 
  • Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) also introduced the legislation.