Proposed bill could exempt some Pennsylvania cosmetologists from licensing

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania requires cosmetologists to be licensed and complete 1,250 hours of schooling before they can practice, but a proposed bill would exempt some beauty professionals from requirements for niche services.

HB2575, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York/Cumberland, would give exemptions for shampooers, braiders, makeup artists, blow dry stylists, threaders, and eyelash extension professionals from current licensing requirements.

“Pennsylvania’s beauty industry is ripe with potential for jobs and opportunity. However, overregulation stifles the industry’s potential,” Keefer wrote in a legislative memo. “Currently, Pennsylvania requires all beauty professionals to spend thousands of hours and dollars on unnecessary cosmetology programs where they incur substantial debt, even if they are already skilled entrepreneurs with strong client bases.”

The exemption could be a big boost for workers – cosmetology programs often leave graduates with high levels of debt.

“Wages in the beauty industry generally aren't high enough for a tuition-charging program to make financial sense,” said Preston Cooper, a research fellow at the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. “In an ideal world, if you wanted to work in that industry, you wouldn't be required to do one of those certificate programs.”

Cooper published a report on the return on investment for thousands of associate degree and certificate programs. For cosmetology, 86% of certificates had a negative ROI, leaving graduates worse off than if they hadn’t enrolled at all.

Keefer’s bill is limited to a few areas of cosmetology, rather than extending to all barbers, hair stylists, etc. While she doesn’t oppose all health and safety requirements for cosmetology, she pointed out how burdensome these requirements are compared to other professions.

“You have to have 1,250 hours to be a cosmetologist. You only need 250 to be an EMT,” she said.

The cost associated with cosmetology programs, and the barriers that licensing creates to people trying to make a living, are not justified, Keefer argued.

“It’s not in the state’s interest to be involved in this,” she said.

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