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Students borrowing more for college

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More than 60 percent of college kids today are borrowing money to pay their tuition - up from 42 percent only five years ago.

More than 19 percent of today's college graduates left college in 1996 with more than $20,000 in debts, according to a General Accounting Office survey released Thursday. About 60 percent of those obtaining graduate or professional degrees that year left with debts of more than $60,000."The college dream has turned into a nightmare of debt," said Sarita Gupta, president of the U.S. Student Association.

Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., who requested the study, said she will use the GAO report to persuade Congress to make student loans tax deductible. Interest on student loans currently is deductible for only five years after loan payments begin, and the deduction is capped at a maximum of $2,500.

Carolotta Joyner of the GAO's education issues division said that escalating tuition costs seem to be the main reason for the increasing debt. College tuition increased 234 percent from 1980 to 1995, a period in which median household income increased 82 percent.

There was little change in the number of students working while they study. Two thirds of undergraduates said they worked at jobs more than 23 hours a week while going to school over the five-year period.

Students attending four-year colleges showed the largest increase in borrowing, with 60 percent of those graduating in the 1995-96 school year reporting they had borrowed money - up from 42 percent in the 1992-93 school year. The average amount of debt they were carrying increased from $10,100 in 1992-93 to $13,300 in 1995-96.