MENTOR, Ohio — Jennifer Pealer, the co-owner of Jennifer and Co., knows all too well that people walk into her salons eager for a change.
“Jennifer and Company is a full service salon. We’ve been in business in Mentor, Ohio for 27 years,” she said.
She prides herself on changing her clients for the better, but doing it in a safe way.
“We are here, primarily, to protect the public, for their well-being of health and safety, and also to make them beautiful,” she said.
But she is worried that a possible change to cosmetology licensing will be a change for the worse.
“You want to go to someone that is very knowledgeable, not less knowledgeable,” she said.
In 2020, Ohio lawmakers introduced House Bill 399. It revolved around lowering the required training for cosmetology licenses from 1,500 hours to 1,000.
Greg Lawson of the Buckeye Institute, a free market think tank based in Columbus, is an advocate of the changes.
“We want it to meet the needs that are necessary from a safety standpoint. But once you've done that, all this other stuff you don't necessarily need,” he said. “We still have 1,500 hours, whereas in New York it's 1,000 hours to be a cosmetologist. So, you have to ask yourself, if there's not a mass problem in New York, why do we have 500 extra hours in Ohio?”
Lawson is currently working with lawmakers to reintroduce a bill similar to HB 399.
“We have a number of other states that have already lowered these hours,” he said.
He said the reason behind the change is simple—cutting the requirements will allow more people to get into the field because they won’t have to spend extra time and money that they possibly don’t have paying for schooling.
“Some of these students are getting hosed, quite frankly, and it's not really good. It's particularly bad because it's women. It's a lot of minority women that are disproportionately being impacted in this, and they're being forced to pay a lot more back in debt frequently than they need to,” said Lawson.
But Pealer said the money spent on schooling will eventually pay off in the long run.
“If you’re focused and that’s what you want to do, that debt will wash away immediately,” she said.
She said those training hours are needed and even after her hires complete schooling, they go through an apprenticeship.
“At 1,500 hours they’re just starting to learn. At 1,500 hours we are really just getting into the groove,” said Pealer.
But Lawson said a cut to requirements is for the greater good.
“I think it's better for Ohio and it's better for the people who are needing jobs, especially in this environment,” he said.