The administration at Washington University is seriously considering closing its 123-year-old School of Dental Medicine, officials said Satuday.

The dental school is facing budget deficits and has been having problems attracting and retaining students while charging one of the highest tutitions in the nation."While no final decision has been made on the future of the School of Dental Medicine, we believe that a chronically difficult situation has taken a recent serious downward turn in applicants nationally and in loss of current students," said Chancellor William Danforth.

The dental school has 277 students, a 38-member full-time clinical faculty, about 100 part-time faculty members and a $6 million budget that is expected to wind up this year with a $240,000 deficit.

Tuition at the dental school has increased $7,000 in five years, to nearly $19,000 yearly - one of the highest in the nation and nearly double that of many state university programs. In addition to smaller freshman classes, the school is losing currently enrolled students to less expensive dental programs elsewhere in the nation.