The costs of college education have soared during the past decade, consistently rising higher than the rate of inflation. The average cost of attending a public university - including tuition, room, and board - is now $7,584; the annual cost at a private university is $16,292. Colleges' financial-aid packages have not kept pace with tuition hikes. While the federal government does not set the costs of college tuition, it can provide funding to help pay for students' education. President Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton have different proposals to meet this need. BUSH

Has requested in the fiscal 1993 budget increasing funding for Pell Grants, the main federal scholarship fund for low-income college students, by 22 percent - to $6.6 billion. If approved by Congress, this would be the largest one-year increase in the program's history.

Has also proposed a 50 percent increase in the maximum Pell Grant award - from $2,400 to $3,700.

Would allow a tax deduction for interest paid before July 1, 1992, on student loans for post-secondary education. Also would allow savings in Individual Retirement Accounts to be withdrawn without penalty to pay for educational costs.

In an interview, Bush said: "During my administration, I've tried to strengthen the federal commitment to higher education and help families meet its costs. " CLINTON

Favors maintaining the Pell Grants but would scrap the existing federally backed student loan program. Would establish a National Service Fund for student loans. Clinton says: "My administration will guarantee every American, middle class as well as poor, the opportunity to borrow money for college from a national trust fund."

Students would repay their loans either as a small percentage of their future earnings or by working for a specified period of time in a "community service" job - such as teacher, police officer, child-care worker, or peer counselor for children. Proposes to pay for the fund by redirecting money from existing student-loan programs and from the defense budget.

* One in a series of boxes summarizing the presidential candidates' positions on major campaign issues.

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