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A survey of independent high schools suggests that they are spending a slightly larger proportion of their income on student financial aid than they did five years ago. The schools also appear to be relying more on endowments and voluntary giving, and less on student tuition, to supply their annual income.

Conducted by the National Association of Independent Schools, the survey of the financial operations of 50 secon-dary day schools found that in 1979-80, the schools spent an average of $263 per student on financial aid (or 7 percent of their annual income), as opposed to $154 per student (or 6.6 per cent) in 1974-75.

The survey also shows that the schools are spending more on plant operations, and less on student activities, instructional costs, administrative costs, and auxiliary services such as lunches and bookstores.

A suit filed against a Fairfield, Iowa, Christian school for failing to meet the reporting requirements in Iowa's education laws was settled out of court last week.

Jefferson County Attorney Edwin F. Kelly, who brought the suit against the Suburban Heights Baptist Church school, said that D.O. Van Dyne, pastor of the church, and Ed Parker, principal of the school, agreed to a compromise which was approved by Jefferson County District Judge Richard R. Schlegel.

Under the agreement, the school will give all factual information required under state law to parents of the 43 children at the school.

The agreement says that the school has fulfilled its reporting obligation if any one of the parents then furnishes the information to the state.

Iowa requires private schools to report the names and ages of students, attendance records for all students between the ages of 7 and 16, the course of study and names of the textbooks used, and names of teachers.

The state allows exemptions from these requirements for groups, such as the Amish, whose beliefs "differ substantially" from the goals of public education, Mr. Kelly said.

The school's failure to meet state regulations resulted in a court order in November to close the school; when that was ignored, Mr. Van Dyne and Mr. Parker were ordered to pay fines of $500 each, plus $65 each in court costs.

Despite the settlement, Mr. Kelly said, the fines will stand. "We did ask that the defendants be allowed to perform some kind of public service to offset their fines," he said.

During the controversy, a group of fundamentalist ministers told Iowa Gov. Robert Ray that the only way to end the conflict between church schools and the state was to exempt them from the state's education laws, but the governor disagreed.

And in a pre-session poll of Iowa legislators by United Press International, only about one-third of those responding said they would favor changing the state laws governing parochial and private schools.

The Madeira School in Greenway, Va., has received a $1-million challenge grant from the family of two of its graduates. The gift, the largest in the independent secondary school's 75-year history, is believed also to be among the largest from an alumna ever received by an girls' boarding school.

The challenge grant was made by the family foundation of Mrs. George A. Hurd Sr. and her daughter, both of whom are graduates of Madeira.

The only other girls' school known to have received such a gift is the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass., which received a $1-million bequest last spring.

"It hasn't been considered ladylike to talk about money," said a spokeswoman for Madeira, and as a result, girls' schools have been "shy" about seeking money from alumnae or other possible benefactors.

Representatives of both schools say the unusual gifts reflect more active fundraising among girls' schools.

St. Joseph's High School in Maryland, founded by America's first canonized saint, Mother Elizabeth Seton, will close this year because of rising costs and declining enrollment.

The school, one of the oldest Roman Catholic schools in the nation, will close in August.

St. Joseph's has depended on tuition and fund-raising ef-forts to keep open in recent years. Unlike many Catholic schools, it was not supported by a parish.

According to a school spokesman, fundraising efforts are continuing, but "only to pay the school's existing debts."

Mother Seton founded St. Joseph's in 1809 as an all-girls' school; it became co-educational in 1946.

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