Pulse March / April 2016 | Page 32

VOICES A Call for Spa Professionals to Protect Our Industry’s Future The U.S. Department of Education’s new “Gainful Employment” regulations threaten to disrupt spa and salon employers’ access to qualified professionals. As the spa industry continues to thrive, new regulations put forth by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) threaten employers’ and consumers’ long-term access to educated, qualified beauty and wellness professionals, including massage therapists, estheticians, cosmetologists and nail professionals. Specifically, the threat stems from regulations that would restrict federal funds (financial aid) for students pursuing career training at “trade schools.” In addressing the national issue of student debt levels, the DOE has placed trade schools in its crosshairs, creating a situation that could ultimately result in a shortage of qualified beauty and wellness professionals. LYNELLE LYNCH is the president of Bellus Academy, leading institution for advanced education which San Diego Magazine dubbed as “the Harvard of Beauty Schools.” Lynch’s multi-faceted background is painted with professional achievements in fashion, business, marketing and even politics, but it is at Bellus Academy where she has discovered her true passion. Her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to excellence has earned her multiple awards, including SD Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business Award” (2012) and AACS “Director of the Year” (2012 and 2008), and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business – Winner of the Small Business Achievement Award (2010). 30 PULSE ■ March/April 2016 A Closer Look at Gainful Employment What does Gainful Employment mean to you? Many people would describe a gainful career as one offering plenty of opportunity and abundant market demand. Unfortunately, such a rational definition of Gainful Employment is not what the DOE has in mind. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor projects a 38 percent increase in job growth for skin-care professionals, the DOE has chosen to define a career education program’s success based on the income that a graduate earns the first year out of beauty school. Such a restrictive basis for evaluating a career program’s success could put the future of the beauty and wellness industry—including the professional spa industry—at risk. The American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) estimates that as many as one-third of its member institutions—who provide 87 percent of the nation’s licensed estheticians, cosmetologists, barbers, massage therapists, and nail technicians—could be forced to close within the next two years without Congressional intervention.