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The Value of High School Cosmetology Programs: Career-ready, debt-free right out of school

Oct 02, 2018

High school cosmetology programs equip young people to start well-paying, professional careers debt-free, right after graduation. These jobs can be a full-time, long-term career or a flexible option if graduates intend to practice cosmetology part-time to help pay for college or when caring for children or family.

Recently, these high school training programs were considered for closure by the Texas Education Association (TEA) when it relied on governmental wage and earnings reports for cosmetology graduates that indicated the profession falls short of state and federal career technical education (CTE) target salaries. There are three primary concerns around the government earnings data: First, many cosmetologists work part-time by choice, so their annual reported wages are lower than for more traditional full-time occupations. Second, there is a great deal of unreported income in the industry, due in large part to salon suites rental operations where stylists are self-employed and may or may not report income from services or tips, unlike legitimate salons which report earnings to the IRS. Even some salons do not report tips, especially if they are not put on credit cards. Third, when stylists move into positions other than behind-the-chair, such as education, management or ownership, due to their new job description their incomes may not be included in cosmetology wage reporting even though it was their cosmetology license that made such promotions possible.

I’ve been operating salons in Texas (and other states) for almost forty years after service in the military and careers in engineering, accounting and consulting. My wife is a stylist, and in 1993 we started the Sport Clips Haircuts franchise which now has almost 1,800 locations in all fifty states and in several provinces in Canada. Sport Clips operates 244 salons in Texas (some we own, some are franchised), and over 300 stylists who are employed in those locations were licensed through high school programs. Their average age is 25 (which shows that many make this a long-term career) and, based on a 40-hour work week schedule, their annual compensation is over $45,000…more than double the $21,507 the government data reports. Ten of the 300 are store managers who earn an average of almost $70,000.

Had these professionals not been able to access one of the 175 high school cosmetology programs offered in Texas, they would have had to attend a private school for 15 months or longer (high school programs only require 1,000 hours of cosmetology education; after graduation, those who attend private beauty schools must attend for 1,500 hours – go figure!), pay tuition that runs as much as $18,500 (which is often funded by Pell Grants and Title IV student loans), and be out-of-pocket for their living expenses during this time. Instead, they entered their career debt-free and became self-supporting, tax-paying citizens immediately after high school. And, data shows that students enrolled in high school cosmetology programs are significantly more likely to finish high school than their peers.

Many Sport Clips stylists and managers praise the opportunity afforded them through their high school cosmetology programs. In one graduate’s words,” Coming from a low-income family, being able to walk out of high school with a diploma and technical training that allowed me to make a reasonable wage was a huge relief. This education opened up doors and opportunities that would otherwise not have existed for me without some sort of strain or burden on my family or self.”

I applaud the support for cosmetology education by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and appreciate the Texas Education Association’s recently announced decision to retain cosmetology programs in Texas high schools. It would be a great disservice to the thousands of Texas high school students enrolled in these programs to eliminate this opportunity for them to start an honorable profession, at a very young age, without student debt. As another high school program graduate said, “I’m only 19 and a self-sufficient adult. I have no student loans, and I’m able to support myself. I was able to buy my own first car, pay rent and bills. I was never one for school, so who knows what path I would be taking. I’m glad I was able to be licensed in high school and not later.”

By Gordon B. Logan, founder and CEO, Sport Clips Haircuts

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