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$100 Million Gift Will Enable Peddie To Aid Eligible Students

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For the first time in its history, and like very few other independent schools, the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., plans by fall 1994 to meet 100 percent of the financial-aid needs of all eligible students, thanks to a $100 million gift.

The donation announced last month by the philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg--which is the biggest gift ever to an independent school--will allow a doubling of Peddie's financial-aid budget to $3 million annually, among other benefits.

The gift, to be used as part of the school's income-generating endowment, catapulted the relatively little-known, 500-student secondary institution into the top financial ranks of the nation's independent college-preparatory schools.

Until now, Peddie's endowment stood at $17 million, ranking the school with about 150 independent schools with endowments of $10 million or more, the National Association of Independent Schools said.

But with the new gift, Peddie joins an elite handful of other prep schools that have endowments of $100 million or more. (See chart, this page.)

The boarding and day school's new $117 million endowment could generate about $9.3 million a year in interest income, said Thomas A. DeGray, Peddie's head of school.

"I really saw our two greatest challenges for the next decade as endowment growth ... [and] gaining recognition as the quality educational institution we all believe we are,'' Mr. DeGray said in an interview.

"In a certain sense,'' he said, "this gift has resolved all of those challenges.''

Half of Students Could Get Aid

Peter Quinn, the director of admissions at Peddie, said he knew of only six or seven other independent schools that regularly meet 100 percent of the financial-aid needs of their students.

Prior to Mr. Annenberg's gift, Peddie was able to provide 70 percent to 75 percent of the financial aid for which its students qualified, Mr. Quinn said.

Annual tuition for the coming academic year stands at $18,900 for boarders and $12,900 for day students at Peddie, which is located midway between New York City and Philadelphia.

Mr. Quinn said he has already abandoned the confines of his $1.5 million financial-aid budget for the coming school year and plans by the 1994-95 year to comply with Mr. Annenberg's wish to double the aid budget.

Between five and 10 independent schools have financial-aid budgets of $3 million or more, said Meade Thayer, the director of admission and financial-aid services at the N.A.I.S.

Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., has the largest, some $6 million.

While currently about 28 percent of Peddie's 500 students receive financial aid--roughly average for boarding-day schools--between 40 percent and 50 percent of all students would receive aid under the expanded budget, Mr. Quinn said.

Even though Mr. Annenberg's donation will not be in hand until the fall, the money is already making a difference for students enrolling for September, school officials said.

"I made three offers today to kids who we'd already put on our wait list for financial aid,'' Mr. Quinn said earlier this month.

For the school year just completed, Peddie's average grant per student was about $8,600--or below the $9,065 average for boarding-day schools reported by the N.A.I.S.

For the 1993-94 year, Peddie's average grant has climbed to $9,600, Mr. Quinn said.

Teacher Salaries To Rise

In addition to boosting financial aid to students, the Annenberg gift will likely be used to increase the salaries of faculty members and offer them more professional-development opportunities, Mr. DeGray said.

He said he hoped to see salaries rise "well above the median of independent schools,'' which was $28,238 nationally in 1992-93, according to the N.A.I.S.

Mr. DeGray said the average salary among the teaching faculty at Peddie in 1992-93 was $25,500. Salaries ranged from $15,300 to $44,600.

The national average salary for teachers at boarding-day schools such as Peddie was $24,523 last year, the N.A.I.S. said.

The expanded endowment will also allow the school to pilot a new interdisciplinary curriculum in the fall of 1994. Formerly known as the Peddie Plan, it has been renamed the Annenberg Plan in honor of its benefactor.

66 Years of Giving

Mr. Annenberg, a member of the Peddie class of 1927, had previously given the school more than $40 million over the years--from $17,000 for a new track, donated in his senior year, to a $7.8 million high-tech library, dedicated in May.

Mr. Annenberg, 85, made a fortune in magazine and newspaper publishing and is a former U.S. ambassador to Britain. He is the chairman and president of the Annenberg Foundation.

In addition to the Peddie gift, Mr. Annenberg last month announced donations of $120 million each to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California and $25 million to Harvard University.

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