ACE, Higher Ed Groups Oppose the DETERRENT Act
December 04, 2023

Note: The House voted 246-170 to approve the DETERRENT Act on Dec. 6. The legislation now moves to the Senate, where the companion bill has been introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).


​ACE and 17 other organizations sent a letter Dec. 4 to House leadership opposing the Defending Education Transparency and Ending Rogue Regimes Engaging in Nefarious Transactions (DETERRENT) Act, which the House is scheduled to vote on this week.

The DETERRENT Act would amend Section 117 of the Higher Education Act by lowering the reporting threshold for foreign gifts or contracts from $250,000 to $50,000 for most countries and to $0 for “countries of concern” (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea), and creating massive new reporting requirements for institutions. The bill would prohibit public institutions from signing contracts with countries of concern unless the secretary of education issues a waiver, require some institutions to create and maintain public facing databases of foreign gifts and contracts to individual researchers and staff, and require some private institutions to report investments or holdings with countries of concern. The bill also would create large new fines for non-compliance, some of which would be tied to an institution’s Title IV funding. You can read ACE’s summary of the bill here.

“We understand that Congress and policymakers are concerned with research security, as well as foreign malign influence, at our institutions,” the groups wrote. “However, the DETERRENT Act is the wrong action to take to address these issues and we urge you to vote against the legislation.” 

Meanwhile, last week the Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid highlighted the significant reporting already happening on foreign gifts and contracts by higher education institutions. According to the department, the “latest foreign gift and contract reporting data set shows nearly 5,000 additional foreign gifts and contracts transactions valued at nearly $4 billion since ED’s last data release as of Oct. 13, 2023.”

“While we understand the concern regarding foreign funding to U.S. institutions of higher education is bipartisan,” the groups stated, “we believe the DETERRENT Act is duplicative of existing interagency efforts, unnecessary, and puts in place a problematic expansion of the data collection by the U.S. Department of Education that will broadly curtail important needed international research collaboration and academic and cultural exchanges.”

The Republican-led House Education and the Workforce committee approved the bill in November, with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting for it. ACE and other organizations sent a letter outlining concerns before the markup, but the final measure neglected to address any of the major concerns identified.

To read the full letter, click here.