Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beauty School Debt

I recently read this article on the New York Times about ex-beauty school students who weren't able to pass their state board exams and are still struggling to pay their student loans (some 20+ years later). They went to schools that marketed themselves to low-income women, promised them a successful career in the beauty industry and signed them up for federal loans to do so. Once in school, the schools didn't help the students pass their state licensing exams or find jobs after graduation so many students were left with debt they weren't able to pay while not even being licensed hairstylists.

The article says several schools are now closed because of this but there are hundreds more practicing similarly around the country. This was such a depressing article for me for several reasons. First of all, it gives hairdressers and beauty schools a bad rap. I mean just read the title. We already aren't the most respected field of work out there. I had to do so much convincing when I dropped out of University and signed up for beauty school. Every profession deserves respect and I've had to defend this industry to closed-minded people a few too many times.

Secondly, I know there are many schools out there today doing the same thing described in the article. My counselor didn't even asking me how I was going to pay for school when I signed up. She assumed I'd want to use the financial aid they had because it benefited them more than any other option. I remember having this feeling like she was trying to deter me from paying for some of my school up front with money I had saved for school.
Thirdly, it reminded me of the fact that a lot of women sign up for beauty school for the wrong reasons. Less than half of my graduating class in beauty school are still doing hair today. They all have very different reasons, and I realize that not very many people get jobs in their field of study in general (whether they go to a trade school or four-year university). I'm afraid beauty school is sometimes seen as a back-up plan or an easy way to have a flexible work schedule or something women can just do from home. As with anything, if it's not something you're really passionate about, it's going to be that much harder to do it well and be successful at it. Beauty school is expensive, and getting more and more so every year, and because of this I strongly recommend anyone who is thinking about it to make sure it's something they want to invest in for a long time even after school is over.

It is possible to pay off your loans though! You can make a great living as a hairstylist, you need to be willing to put a lot of time and effort into it. You can pay it off working at Supercuts or at a luxury salon but it won't be easy if you're not passionate about your craft. If you're not passionate about hair then you won't be a good hairstylist and you won't be busy enough to make the investment worth it.

The bottom line for me after reading that article was that people need to really want to be a hairdresser before enrolling in beauty school and have a plan set out to be successful. I know a lot of great hairstylists who went to beauty schools that didn't teach them how to do hair. These hairstylists knew that they would learn how to do hair while working at a reputable salon with a great education system. It is worth it to go to a more expensive school where you will actually know how to cut hair when you leave though. I went to a great school that helped everyone pass their state board exams as well as helped us find jobs after school. I left beauty school knowing how to cut hair, with a passion for the craft and a desire for even more education so I could continue to grow. This enabled me to find a job where I could pay off the investment I made in going to school in the first place.

Please don't be a beauty school drop out.


Julie said...

Rubi, I say to my husband all the time that if our kids want to go to a trade school instead of college, that I'll be 100% for it -- and that's an opinion I formed after meeting you. I am jealous of your passion for your work and I just want my kids to have a career that they are truly passionate about. I hope you are cutting hair when you come back to NYC in the fall? I would love to come see you! xoxo Julie Gorski

Carolynn Markey said...

I loved your article. As someone who "quit her day job" working at a call center to go full time into making things and blogging, I've had many people look at me like I'm an idiot and call me lazy. But that is my passion!

clarelouise said...

I don't want to start off by seeming to gloat, but i can't help but exclaim how different the school/university funding system is, here in Australia! I had always heard about the dramas of uni students trying to study and pay off their loans, or who were desperate to get a job straight after finishing, in order to pay anything owing off. Here (and i honestly have to say i am truly thankful!), all australian citizen students are eligible to have the government pay for all of the higher education (both university and 'trade schools'), and we don't have to pay the loans back until we are earning over a certain salary, which is usually at a level of proper full time work. And to add to this, popular places to do hairdressing and beauty therapy are run by government organisations, and more often than not, the fees are really quite minimal!
Anyway, what i really wanted to comment on (sorry about above spiel!) was the absolute truth and reality of the need to be totally passionate about your profession, whatever that may be. I think my generation are lucky to have such infinite choices and opportunities at our fingertips, but that means nothing if you are not dedicated and passionate about what you do.
Good on you for speaking up and against the ills of your profession, and may it hopefully spark change in the future!
(phew, i had no idea i had that much to say!)

rubi said...


That makes me so happy! I hope to see you soon! I will be cutting hair in NYC this September. It's pretty exciting actually. More info on that soon. :)


As Clairelouise said, I think our generation is lucky enough to such infinite choices and opportunities at our fingertips and can pursue careers we are truly passionate about. Good luck!


I'm so jealous of the Australian school system as well as other countries (France's is pretty good as well). So glad you had so much to say :)

The House That Lars Built said...

I've been crafting this same article for my blog about interior design school. Now you're giving me a kick in the pants to do it!

Amy said...

I actually thought about going to beauty school quite a few times and ultimately decided it wasn't for me because I just don't LOVE hair. There are certain things about it I would love--dying, up-dos, helping my fellow curly-maned women--but they wouldn't get me a career and I know so many people--like yourself--that can do it better! And have the passion for it! I'm so glad you wrote this article. It was a great reminder that I made the right choice.


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