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President Talks Tax Credits With College Heads

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Washington

> President Clinton invited 27 college presidents to a breakfast meeting at the White House last week to solicit support for his proposed tax deduction for college tuition.

Several college presidents said after the breakfast that Mr. Clinton had sought to reassure them that the proposal would not threaten existing aid programs.

"This program would be a supplement to the current programs, not a substitute," Hunter R. Rawlings 2nd, the president of the University of Iowa, said at a press briefing sponsored by the American Council on Education. For their part, the presidents pledged to try to keep tuition down.

President Clinton proposed last month in his "Middle-Class Bill of Rights" that families earning up to $120,000 be granted a deduction on their federal taxes of up to $10,000 a year for postsecondary-education expenses.

Deborah M. Dicroce, the president of Piedmont Virginia Community College, said the plan would make college more affordable for many students.

But the A.C.E., an umbrella organization of higher-education groups, had not endorsed the plan as of last week. Robert Atwell, the A.C.E.'s president, said the group had spent most of its energy gearing up to fight proposals by Republican members of Congress to eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on student loans and to cut aid programs such as work-study.

Mr. Atwell announced last week that he will chair the Alliance to Save Student Aid, a new coalition of 30 higher-education groups formed to oppose interest-subsidy cuts. A student who owes $17,125 under the Family Education Loan program would owe $5,000 more if the subsidy were eliminated, the coalition says.

To help mobilize grassroots support, the alliance has established a "Save the Student Aid" hot line. Callers who dial (800) 574-4AID can be connected directly with their members of Congress for a $3.65 charge.

--Meg Sommerfeld

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