There was a time when you prepared for college, "signed up" for student loans, and were virtually assured that the funds would be there for you. The idea of having to pay back big loans wasn't appealing, but you knew your education was worth it. The checks came, you went to the financial aid office to get them, and all was well.

But it's not quite so easy anymore. There's news that Sallie Mae, the nation's largest provider of student loans, may stop making new loans, at least temporarily. The company says the loans are no longer profitable, so it can't afford to do them anymore.

Last week, a news report brought to light a new issue: Student loan checks that bounce. The Boston Globe reported on a student who deposited a $16,000 student loan check, started using the funds, and then was notified that the check bounced. The check bounced because The Education Resources Institute Inc., a nonprofit agency that guarantees student loans, filed bankruptcy. The student will still get his funds after some paperwork is sorted out, but it has likely been a scary process for him.

More banks are likely to stop issuing new student loans as the business climate for the loans has changed and banks don't want to be involved with unprofitable loans. What does that mean for students? If they can't get the loans they once counted on, they may have to work more in addition to going to school, and they may even have to switch to part-time status in order to work more.

That's not the ideal situation for many students, but it's not going to be impossible for them to go to school. They may have to become more creative, cut back on some extras, and be willing to work more. But those who really value a college education will be able to still get one through good, old fashioned hard work.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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