Usually when graduates get something in the mail from the higher education types, it's one of those unwelcome dunning bills for student loans.

But this year is different because the Utah Board of Education is trying to locate nearly 450 students who are eligible for rebates from guaranteed loans they attempted to use at schools that closed.The rebates total between $500,000 and $750,000. The sums students can receive range from $25 to $3,800 depending on their loans.

Not everyone is eligible to get money back or get a loan forgiven.

But many people do fit revised congressional requirements and could get a rebate check if only the state could find them, according to Gail Norris, associate commissioner for the student loan pro-gram.

The money is supposed to be returned to people who tried to repay their loans even though they could not finish their educations because their school closed its doors voluntarily or was shut down by the state.

Of the 550 students eligible for rebates, only about 100 have asked for their checks so far.

There are a few requirements, Norris said. "They had to be in school within 90 days before the school closed. If they left school earlier, it's apparently the presumption of Congress that they left for other reasons."

Also, if a student transferred credits to another school and completed the program there, the individual is not eligible for any rebate or loan forgiveness.

Generally, the people who are eligible were cheated by bad schools. "Most of the good schools that closed have found a way to help their students finish their program," Norris said.

Norris said another important advantage is that anyone who qualifies who has a loan default on his or her credit record from a closed school situation will have that cleared up. The individual also can reapply for more student financial aid to actually get some education.

"We know they didn't get what they paid for. This is a good help. It allows us to be realistic in terms of the circumstances," Norris said.

Congress changed the Higher Education Act in 1993 to help students who had attended schools that either closed on their own or were closed by states.

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The revised act said students who paid back their loans were entitled to rebates, defaulted loans could be forgiven and any negative credit reports could be purged from an individual's credit record.

The issue is one of fairness - the idea was to give a break to people who made a effort to get some schooling and faithfully repaid their debts but got zapped out of an education through no fault of their own.

In Utah, most people eligible for rebates attended Hollywood Beauty College, Salt Lake City, which closed in 1989; City College, Salt Lake, which closed in 1987; Painter's Beauty College in Roy and Ogden, which was shut down by state regulators in 1989; and the Wasatch Career Institute of Salt Lake City, which was shut down in 1990.

If you think you qualify, call the state's "Closed School Hot Line" in Salt Lake City: 1-801-321-7223.

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