The Department of Education (ED) on Monday sent a revised information collection request (ICR) related to foreign gift reporting to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The new notice, which was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday and includes a Summary of Comments and Supporting Statement in addition to the updated ICR, comes after ED reviewed comments submitted on a previous version of the ICR published in September.
The revised ICR looks largely similar to the ICR published by ED in September, with a few updates. While a number of the questions previously raised by NASFAA and others in the community remain unclear, the updated ICR does clarify some uncertainty around the $250,000 reporting threshold stated in Section 117 statute. The revised ICR confirms that institutions are not expected to report “gifts from or contracts with a foreign source under $250,000 unless the aggregate value of all gifts from and contracts with that foreign source within a calendar year total at least $250,000,” but that each separate gift or contract should be reported individually when the $250,000 threshold from a foreign source is reached in the aggregate.
Notably, the updated ICR also increases the reporting burden estimate for schools from 10 hours to 20 hours, based on public comment. The revised notice also clarifies that reporting will be moved to a separate information collection instrument and away from the e-app schools currently use to report foreign gifts.
ED requested that OMB conduct an emergency review of the new ICR by January 2. If granted this expedited approval, schools would be required to comply with the new reporting requirements and use the new reporting instrument for the upcoming January 31 reporting deadline. NASFAA signed onto a community letter sent to ED Tuesday opposing ED’s request for emergency processing, stating that the request does not meet the requirements for an emergency review.
The letter also argues that the expedited timeline requested by ED denies schools the sufficient time needed to collect and upload the required information before the January 31 deadline, particularly given the dramatic expansion of information that must be reported using a new — and currently unavailable — portal.
Because of ED’s request for emergency review, the notice is only open for comments until December 27. This comment period is much shorter than the 30-day period that is typical for packages sent to OMB for final review. NASFAA is working with the higher education community to submit comments on the updated ICR before the December 27 deadline.
ED announced at the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Conference earlier this month that the new online portal for foreign gift reporting would be available in early 2020. ED will soon issue an Electronic Announcement instructing schools to report through the new system rather than the e-app previously used to report foreign gifts. With the January 31 reporting deadline quickly approaching, NASFAA will closely monitor the ED’s progress in developing the new reporting instrument and make schools aware when it becomes available.
This week’s developments in foreign gift reporting requirements come after months of tension between ED and the higher education community. Since June, ED has launched investigations into six institutions’ compliance with Section 117 reporting requirements. NASFAA first raised concerns in August around the ambiguity of the requirements, and the higher education community has repeatedly requested clarification and asked for a rulemaking process that allows for feedback from higher education stakeholders.
NASFAA signed onto a community comment letter in November arguing the ICR published by ED in September dramatically expanded the reporting requirements for all institutions, significantly increased both the burden and cost to schools obligated to report additional information, and exceeded the statutory requirements of Section 117. ED had the option of revising its initial ICR based on comments received before sending it to OMB for final approval.
Publication Date: 12/19/2019