For many people, becoming a hair stylist, colorist, or cosmetologist is a dream career. It’s a path that is quite different than spending four years in college and taking a desk job, even if cosmetology school loans are sometimes needed.
Among the attractions, a role in a salon allows you to work with your hands, meet new people, work a flexible schedule and create beautiful looks. Plus, top stylists can earn $25 an hour or more, and demand for cosmetologists is expected to remain strong, so it can be a way to make a solid income without getting a bachelor’s degree.
But the appeal of a career in cosmetology also makes the beauty school industry rife with scams. Along with hundreds of reputable schools, there are also some that rob students of their hard-earned money and leave them without any job prospects. Even after shady schools shut down, former students can get stuck paying the price of cosmetology school loans.
Here’s what to watch for, and how to find student loans for cosmetology school that are legit.
Beware cosmetology school loans from corrupt schools
One major case against a cosmetology school involved the Jon Louis School of Beauty in New York. The school was accused of misusing federal student loan funds and targeting low-income and non-English-speaking students, saddling them with debt in order to make a profit.
Jon Louis and other similar schools have closed, but some students still face cosmetology school loans. Others paid thousands of dollars and took out loans to go to school, but never received the necessary training and credentials.
Students have reported being unable to pass state licensing exams and only qualifying for unskilled jobs in the salon, such as hair washing or cleaning up at the end of the day. Many are unemployable after graduation, and end up taking low-paying jobs in fast food or retail to make ends meet.
If a school peddles in fraudulent degrees, it can leave you without the required education and training, as well as mountains of loans that need to be repaid.
With any secondary education program, if a program sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission cautions aspiring students to be on the lookout for schools that make lofty promises that seem hard to deliver, like:
- No exams and no coursework
- Getting significant course credit for your previous work experience
- A flat fee rather than paying per course or semester
- The opportunity to graduate in a very short window of time
Another concern for students looking for help paying for vocational school is student loan scams. When pursuing financial assistance, the U.S. Department of Education advises students to beware of loans that sound too good to be true, such as those promising immediate debt forgiveness, loans requiring you to pay money up front and offers from anyone who requests your FSA ID or asks you to sign a third-party power of attorney.
In addition, just because an email or piece of mail has the Department of Education seal, that doesn’t mean it is a legitimate lender. If you think you may be the victim of a loan scam or you want to research a potential lender, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission or your state attorney general’s office.
Identifying a reputable beauty school
Natyssa Taras works as a licensed hairstylist and regional educator with Eufora International, which offers training opportunities for those in the hair and beauty industry. After years in the business, she urges potential cosmetologists to do their homework before choosing a school.
“Aspiring hair stylists looking at beauty schools should first look for accreditation,” said Taras. “This comes from the state in which the school is located, their board of education, as well as licensing groups like the New York State Beauty School Association.” Accreditation is a key indicator that the school prepares students for employment after graduation.
Additionally, Taras recommends that potential students visit schools in person.
“Websites can only tell you so much,” said Taras. “Talk to teachers about continued education after graduation, job placement and apprenticeships. Instructors should be state-certified, as each state has their own program for professionals to become licensed cosmetology instructors.”
Getting cosmetology school loans
The cost of beauty school can vary, depending on the location and the school’s brand.
“The average cost in my area of New York is $12,000 for a 36-week program,” said Taras. “A ‘brand’ school like Paul Mitchell, Sassoon, and others will cost more, but beware of paying a premium for a name only. Do your research, and talk to current students and alumni if you can.”
Schools can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 in tuition, with additional expenses for room, board, textbooks and transportation. According to estimates from Empire Beauty School, the costs for textbooks and supplies could run an additional $2,000 to $3,000 per year.
When it comes to paying for school, you’ll have more options if you attend an accredited school; most federal loans are only available if the school you choose is an accredited institution.
If your school has the required credentials, you can apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), just as you would for a four-year university. If you have a relatively lower income, you may qualify for a Pell Grant to help cover the cost of your education, which you do not have to pay back.
Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, federal student loans have a low interest rate and offer repayment programs that can make your monthly payments affordable. Always see if you are eligible for a federal student loan first before turning to private student loans.
You may also be eligible for federal or state grants, which do not have to be repaid. The American Association of Cosmetology Schools also offers resources on available grants and scholarship programs.
If federal loans or scholarship programs are not an option for you, start researching private loans from reputable lenders, including banks and credit unions. In other cases, beauty schools offer financing themselves or offer payment plans to make it easier on you, such as through cosmetology school loans.
Avoiding trade school scams
Whether you’re investigating beauty schools or any other vocational school, be careful to pick a reputable school with a proven track record for training students properly and helping them find employment.
As mentioned above, illegitimate schools may lure students in with low-cost programs or promises of a quick coursework. These so-called diploma mills could take your money and leave you without the necessary training or certification to pursue your chosen career. Schools might have prestigious sounding names, with words like “national,” “federal” or “institute,” but that doesn’t legitimize them.
To confirm a school is on the level and avoid scams, it is important to do your homework. Here are some things to check:
- Research the school’s degree or certification offerings
- Look on its website and marketing materials for accreditation for both the school and the individual programs
- Check with industry organizations, such as the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, to verify a school’s membership and accreditation
- Search the Council for Higher Education’s database, which includes information on 8,500 post-secondary schools, including cosmetology programs, and information on accreditors
- Call the school and ask to be connected with recent graduates
- Read up on the school on job boards and social media
- Check on the school’s timeline for graduation — if it seems too quick to receive proper training, it could be a scam
- Contact your state’s attorney general to see if a school has any outstanding complaints
Entering a career in cosmetology can be rewarding and provide you with a solid income. But if you’re considering attending beauty school, make sure you understand the necessary accreditation in your state and the qualifications you need to find a job after graduation.
Alli Romano contributed to this report.
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
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2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
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Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.37% effective July 10, 2019.
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Citizens Bank Disclosures
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