The Kankakee Area Career Center provides high school students with the training needed to be licensed cosmetologists. There are a few minor, extra expenses for classroom materials.
And, if a budding hairstylist waits until after graduation to make a career decision, the Career Center offers another program for $9,000.
Meanwhile, Trends Setters College of Cosmetology in Northfield Square mall — one of the 106 Paul Mitchell schools across the nation — charges $20,000 for tuition and a starting equipment kit. And, according to records made available on government watchdog Adam Andrzejewski’s website, the federal government has provided $8.2 million to pay for those lessons since 2000.
"I thought it was an error in the federal records at first. I thought the decimal point had to be off by two or three places," Andrzejewski, a former Herscher resident, said. "But I went over it again. It’s right."
The payment category on his openthebooks.com site listed the checks going out for the Pell Grants that help students with tuition payments. According to the Trend Setters’ website, these grants don’t have to be repaid. Other government loans are available to students, funds that help cover educational costs and living expenses while they earn degrees. And these must be repaid.
Despite the federal government’s Pell Grant assistance, Washania Jones, 35, of Kankakee, is a Trend Setters’ graduate with a degree, a career and a whopping $15,000 school debt. She now styles hair and teaches cosmetology at the Career Center.
"I had a grant, but I also had loans when I left there," she said. "When I see what I owe now, I think: Man, that’s the cost of a car, or a down payment on a house."
With an individual Pell Grant limit set at $5,500 per year, the $1.3 million paid to Trend Setters in 2012 would represent financial aid for 239 students if they all received the maximum.
William Clark, a co-owner and head of the financial aid department at the Bradley school and sister colleges in Tinley Park and Davenport, Iowa, said the payments for all three facilities are mailed to the Bradley offices.
"We have about 105 students at Bradley," he said in a phone interview Friday. "And they get an education in a very professional environment [at the mall.]
"And the tuition is actually not the $20,136 figure," Clark noted. "That includes the professional kit that the graduate can take to their salon. The tuition is actually $16,948."
He added that despite the steadily growing federal support, the school closed its facility on North Street in Bradley and moved exclusively to the mall location in July 2012.
"The debts that some students face come from the loans they’re eligible for," Clark added. "We just fill out the paperwork with them, and they can be eligible for other funds [for living expenses while they attend.] We have nothing to do with how much they ask for or how they spend it."
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