News Story

Student loan borrowers get $10K bailout, trade school students get regulations

Michigan’s state government leans on the trade school student, and feds bail out the student loan borrower

President Joe Biden announced on Aug. 24 that taxpayers will foot the bill for $10,000 in student college loans per borrower, or $20,000 for those who received Pell grants.

Meanwhile, the president offered nothing to Americans working in the non-elite economy. Trade schools, such as barber and cosmetology schools, have high loan default rates. Their graduates can expect lower pay and face more burdensome training hour requirements before they can even begin to work in their chosen fields. 

State law requires barbers to have 1,800 hours of training before obtaining a license, according to the Institute for Justice. By comparison, the Federal Aviation Administration only requires airline pilots to log 1,500 hours.

Cosmetologists are required to have 1,500 hours of training. Cosmetology students typically are considered low-income. The average cost of a cosmetology program is $16,000, according to a June 2021 report by the Institute for Justice. Lawyers are required 1,200 classroom hours. 

This means that if you have a hair appointment and a court hearing on the same day, the rookie cosmetologist would have more training than the rookie lawyer.

The average student loan debt for such a program is $7,100, for a career that, on average, pays $26,000 annually. Cosmetologists' income is less than that of most janitors and restaurant workers, whose jobs do not require school or state licensing.

Graduation requirements for barbers and cosmetologists almost always reflect state licensing requirements. In other words, the expense of schooling is directly affected by the state’s licensing requirements. Michigan is ranked 30th in America for exorbitant licensing requirements, according to the Institute for Justice. New York is the least restrictive state.

Kara Cole, a Grand Rapids salon owner and stylist, tells Michigan Capitol Confidential:

I strongly believe cosmetology and barbering should be unregulated. I also have an issue with the fact that while everyone is spending money on school, I am not allowed to collect monetary compensation for providing an apprenticeship, which would be far more educational than a school or standard experience. I do believe a 500-hour course in safety standards should be required to maintain a cosmetology license as an individual. However, any education obtained on skills such as cutting or coloring should be optional. I believe cosmetology and barber schools should be just like any other college experience — it sets you apart from your co-workers or people in your industry, but it is not required to get a job.

The common reason given for licensing requirements is the health and safety of the public.

Tattoo artists, who are exposed to blood and potentially blood-borne pathogens while using a needle, are not required to obtain a license. Nor do they have minimum training hours. Tattoo shop owners have few requirements to set up shop.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement of support for Biden’s move to cancel student debt. She did not respond to a request for comment regarding trade school debt.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.