Pritzkers donate $10M for undergrad aid

April 20, 2010, 1:02 a.m.

The Pritzker family, founders of the Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corporation, pledged $10 million to Stanford last week to help financially needy students from Chicago attend the University.

Known as the Pritzker Scholars Fund, the gift comes at a key point in Stanford fundraising history. The number of students demonstrating financial need grew during the economic recession, with nearly half of all undergraduates now relying at least partially on scholarships from the University to reduce tuition and living expenses.

According to Stanford’s financial aid policy, undergraduates with an annual family income below $60,000 are not expected to pay a parental contribution toward any educational expenses, while families earning less than $100,000 do not pay tuition costs.

The policy has strained the already-shrunken University endowment, a factor that makes the Pritzkers’ gift particularly timely, said Director of Financial Aid Karen Cooper.

University President John Hennessy, in a statement to the Stanford Report, said, “Stanford is committed to keeping its doors open for students from all walks of life, and this gift helps us reinforce that pledge — especially in this economy.”

“A $10 million gift is not common, and very much appreciated,” Cooper added.

Cooper said the fund “will not create immediate changes to any individual student’s eligibility for aid.”

“Endowed support for the financial aid program, like the Pritzker Scholars Fund, means that we don’t have to use unrestricted University funds for financial aid that could be used for other purposes,” Cooper added.

The Pritzker family includes several Stanford Law and Business alumni and parents of Stanford students. Their gift is not unprecedented: in 2002, the family donated $30 million to the University of Chicago as part of that institution’s $2 billion Chicago Initiative.

“I have great affection and respect for Stanford as do many members of the Pritzker family,” said Penny Sue Pritzker J.D. ’84 MBA ’84. “My mother was fond of saying, ‘A good education is one thing no one can take away from you. It’s something you have for life.’ My Stanford education was first-rate.”

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