SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Today, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) released the following statement from AACS Executive Director Kathy Chow in response to the introduction of the College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674) that was introduced this week by House Democrats:

“In today’s economy students deserve access to educational opportunities that prepare them for careers in high-demand fields and Congress must do its part to prioritize policies that expand access and avoid ideologically-driven punitive proposals that would have lasting unintended consequences for cosmetology schools, graduates, employers, and consumers. While we support many aspects of this bill, we have strong objections to several provisions.

We support proposals to expand access, promote transparency and simplify the loan program:

  • Expanding Pell Grants: We support increasing Pell Grant funding and the proposed expansion of Pell Grants to short-term programs, but we question the lack of policy basis or data for the exclusion of proprietary schools from the expansion, given that graduates of short-term programs offered by cosmetology schools are in high demand by employers.
  • Streamlining Student Data Collection: We support proposals for collecting data at a student level, with appropriate privacy safeguards, to provide the Education Department and consumers with clearer, more complete information that will inform policy and consumer choice.
  • Reforming the Student Loan Repayment Process: We support proposals that improve the federal loan program in a number of areas including eliminating certain fees, establishing zero monthly payments for students earning under $31,225, improving the PLUS loan program, and improving loan counseling.

“We strongly oppose, however, the bill’s inclusion of a number of provisions that are clearly punitive toward proprietary institutions and not based on any data or policy justification. These proposals will have far-reaching and unintended consequences for students who choose to attend cosmetology schools that train graduates for the thriving beauty and wellness industry.

“Despite good intentions to expand Pell Grant funding for short-term programs, the bill would exclude in-demand programs offered by cosmetology schools. This ignores the trend toward shorter-term, skills-based programs that are directly aligned with the marketplace and would make federal support unavailable for students who seek to take those programs as compared to other short-term programs in high-demand fields.  No data or policy justification has been provided for this exclusion.

“The legislation also excludes cosmetology schools from providing training to incarcerated students as part of the proposed expansion of Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals, again without data or policy justification, and ignoring the fact that cosmetology schools have a strong history of providing needed occupational training to students formerly incarcerated.

“This legislation would also restore the gainful employment rule recently rescinded by this Administration. The rule was repealed because it used a demonstrably flawed earnings framework to grade cosmetology programs, including failing to take into account underreporting of wages and tips that resulted in unreliable and misleading scores. This legislation does nothing to address that issue and simply repeats the same mistake.

“Additionally, changing the 90/10 Rule to 85/15 does nothing to increase program quality but will rather limit the ability of some schools to enroll lower-income and veteran students who are dependent on federal sources of aid. Students enter our programs from a wide-range of backgrounds, including veterans, single-mothers and returning students who often juggle a full-time job and schooling.  Those students are often heavily aid dependent and deserve the same choices and opportunities as those who choose another educational path. Using the 90/10 rule as a quality metric does not make sound policy sense, as the rule only measures the type of aid used by a student.

“Further, changes to the borrower defense to repayment rule would ignore the negotiated rulemaking session concluded by this Administration that has resulted in a process that is clearer for both students and schools, and maintains a federal process to provide relief to students who were defrauded while also safeguarding taxpayer funds.

“Before enacting these harmful proposals, we encourage the bill sponsors to learn more about cosmetology schools, programs, graduates and the employers in their district who hire them by visiting an AACS member school.”

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