You can use financial aid to pay for cosmetology school. Federal financial aid is available to students who attend an accredited cosmetology program at least half-time. You may also be able to use private aid, including scholarships and loans, to cover cosmetology school costs.
While tuition can cost $10,000 to $20,000 per year, you may not need to pay out-of-pocket costs if you’re an aspiring cosmetologist.
Read on to learn more about the different types of financial aid available for cosmetology school and which is best for you.
In this guide:
Federal financial aid
|Direct Subsidized Loan|
|Who offers?||U.S. Department of Education (DoE)|
|Eligibility||Attend an accredited school at least half-time and have a financial need.|
|How to apply||Submit a FAFSA online.|
|Limits||Up to to $5,500 per year|
|Best for||Students with financial needs|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loan|
|Eligibility||Attend an accredited school at least half-time.|
|How to apply||Submit a FAFSA online.|
|Limits||Up to $12,500 per year|
|Best for||Students who can’t get a Direct Subsidized Loan or need more funding|
|Federal Pell Grant|
|Eligibility||Attend an accredited school at least half-time, and have significant financial need.|
|How to apply||Submit a FAFSA online.|
|Limits||Up to $7,395|
|Best for||Students with significant financial needs|
|Federal Work-Study Jobs|
|Who offers?||Schools participating in the Federal Work-Study Program|
|Eligibility||Attend an accredited school participating in the Federal Work-Study Program, and have a financial need.|
|How to apply||Submit a FAFSA online.|
|Limits||Vary based on the job, hours worked, and wage earned.|
|Best for||Students with a financial need who have time to work while attending school.|
|State Aid – Grants|
|Who offers?||Some states—contact your state or school’s financial aid office.|
|Eligibility||Meet the requirements set by the state (e.g., financial need)|
|How to apply||Submit a FAFSA online, or apply as directed by your state.|
|Best for||Students who meet the state’s criteria and apply early, as funds are limited.|
|Private Aid – Scholarships and Grants|
|Who offers?||Some schools, industry associations, nonprofits, and private businesses|
|Eligibility||Meet the requirements set by the entity offering the aid (e.g., financial need, high GPA)|
|How to apply||Apply as directed by the group offering the grant or scholarship.|
|Best for||Students who meet the criteria of the group offering the grant.|
|Private Student Loans|
|Who offers?||Banks, credit unions, and online lenders|
|Eligibility||Meet the lender’s credit and income requirements.|
|How to apply||Apply with your lender.|
|Limits||Vary, often up to 100% of attendance cost|
|Best for||Students who’ve exhausted all other funding options and can afford the payment|
Federal financial aid is a realistic way to pay for cosmetology school, but you’ll need to attend an accredited school to qualify. Hundreds of schools throughout the U.S. are accredited, so one is likely in your area. Check whether your school is accredited for federal aid.
To offer federal financial aid, accredited beauty schools must be registered with the U.S. Department of Education and report regular student loan payment statistics. If the default rate is too high, the government might impose sanctions on the school until rates improve.
As you’re comparing cosmetology schools, in addition to seeing whether it’s accredited, consider whether it’s a for-profit or nonprofit business. The main goal of many for-profit entities is to generate profits. In contrast, nonprofits often focus on filling community needs at a lower cost.
Research suggests half of the U.S. student loan defaults are from students at for-profit colleges, despite just 10% of students enrolling in for-profit colleges. Before enrolling, it is a good idea to research your school’s statistics as reported to the federal government to see how it compares.
How to qualify
To qualify for federal aid, cosmetology students must submit a FAFSA form online each academic year. Depending on your financial needs, you might be eligible to receive the following types of financial aid:
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Student Loans
- Federal Work-Study Program
- State-Specific Government Aid
Most students can use federal student loans. They have options for almost everyone, even those without a financial need. Pell Grants are available to students with exceptional financial need. In contrast, work-study and state aid have limited availability.
When you submit your FAFSA, you might receive all these types of financial aid, depending on your financial need and the school’s cost of attendance. Since funding for some programs is limited, such as work-study and state aid, those who submit their FAFSAs early are more likely to receive funding.
You can find out more about the FAFSA and how to qualify for federal financial aid in our FAFSA Guide.
Students with the greatest financial need may receive Pell Grants from the federal government. Unlike federal student loans, you won’t need to repay the Pell Grant funds in most cases. Students can receive up to $6,895 in federal Pell Grants for the current academic year.
When you submit your annual FAFSA, your school and the federal government may offer you a combination of Pell Grants and federal student loans if you qualify. Many students use both types of financial aid.
Federal student loans
The primary type of federal aid is federal student loans. These include both Subsidized and Unsubsidized student loans. The most common types of student loans are Direct Loans. The annual limits for these federal loans range from $3,500 to $12,500.
Federal student loans give you access to money upfront to cover the cost of your education. You’ll repay your federal student loans over time with interest. Most repayment periods start at 10 years but might extend to 25 years, depending on your needs.
Anyone enrolled at least half-time can qualify for an Unsubsidized federal student loan. If you have a financial need, you might also be able to get a Subsidized student loan. Subsidized student loans are a more affordable option since their goal is to help students in need go to school.
Students qualifying for a work-study program do not need to repay the work-study funds. You’ll work a set number of hours each week at an assigned job in exchange for financial aid. You’ll receive funding at least equivalent to the federal minimum wage for each hour you work.
Whether you get approved for funding through a work-study program depends on what your school offers, your financial need, and when you apply for aid. Work-study funding is limited, so the earlier you submit your FAFSA, the more likely you can participate if you have a financial need.
Not all schools participate in the Federal Work-Study Program. You can contact your school’s financial aid office to see if this program is available. While work-study programs are often limited to available on-campus jobs, some schools also partner with private companies to offer off-campus jobs.
State-specific government aid
Some states offer financial aid to students attending college, including accredited cosmetology schools, within their borders. Many states use your FAFSA as your state aid application, while others might want you to submit a separate application. The types and amounts of state aid vary.
Learn about available state aid grant opportunities in your region by:
- Contacting your state to learn more. The types of aid your state offers, if any, and which departments administer it will vary. The U.S. Department of Education provides a list of state contacts to make it easier to get the information.
- Discussing the options with your financial aid office. Your financial aid office is often the best place to start for this information. It should be able to tell you whether your state offers a cosmetology-specific grant program since this is its area of focus.
- Searching for grants online. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has a state financial aid program directory you can use to find a list of grants by state. Your school’s financial aid office might also use this resource.
While state financial aid might not be as generous as federal aid, it can still help cover the cost of cosmetology school. Also, grants often don’t need to be repaid unless you fail to meet the grant’s requirements (e.g., finishing school). These can make going to school much more affordable.
Private financial aid
In addition to federal aid, students should also search for any private aid available to them.
Most private aid is need-based, although merit-based programs based on an individual’s skill or ability are available. You might be able to receive private aid in the form of:
- Specific scholarships for cosmetology school
- Specific grants for cosmetology school
- General scholarships and grants
- Private student loans
Most grants and scholarships don’t need to be repaid, so look for this type of private financial aid first. Once you’ve exhausted all other federal and private financial aid options, you might consider using private student loans. Since private student loans can be expensive, consider them last.
Read on to learn more about your financial aid options for cosmetology school from private sources.
Specific scholarships for cosmetology school
Many local, network, and talent community cosmetology school scholarships are available. For example, Great Clips gives away more than $100,000 in annual scholarships. You might also get a six-month tuition scholarship from Dermalogica for one of its programs.
Some cosmetology programs also offer scholarships. For example, Empire Beauty Schools has scholarship programs for high school students, good attendance, and those who recently lived in an anti-domestic violence shelter. Plus, Empire Beauty School provides scholarships from many industry partners.
You can also apply for one of the many national scholarships offered by the Professional Beauty Association or the nonprofit organization Beauty Changes Lives. The specific scholarships and deadlines these organizations offer change, so check back often to see what’s available.
Another terrific place to search for private scholarships is with the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS). The AACS partners with many industry groups and associations to offer scholarships to cosmetology students. These also change, so review its scholarship list often.
Specific grants for cosmetology school
Along with private scholarships, you might qualify for private grants. The term “grants” often describes need-based funding provided by government entities.
Most private entities use the word “scholarships” to describe funding they give students, whether it’s need-based or merit-based.
Since the terms “scholarship” and “grant” may be interchangeable among private entities that offer this type of college funding, it’s helpful to search for both types of private financial aid. For example, the American Association of Cosmetology Schools shares scholarships and grants on its website.
Students do not need to submit a FAFSA to receive private aid. Instead, you should apply directly with the school or association offering the private grant or scholarship.
General scholarships and grants
Finding private scholarships and grants might seem tedious. A scholarship database (such as our guide to scholarships) can be helpful, along with checking the websites of professional organizations. Your school’s financial aid office can often give you a scholarship list.
Before you search for a scholarship, consider what’s unique about you. Most scholarships target a specific group or need, such as cosmetology school students, women, or people with specific disabilities. Use the unique terms and features you identify with as you search for options online.
Targeting your search to what’s unique to you makes it easier to find scholarships and increases the odds you’ll get one—or several. When you submit your scholarship or grant application, provide all the necessary details to show why you’re the best applicant. Be sure to apply on time.
Private student loans
Unlike federal student loans, which anyone attending an accredited school can get, private student loans are issued based on creditworthiness. Whether you qualify, how much you can get, and your rates and terms will depend on your (and your cosigner’s) credit score, credit history, and income level.
You should know that private student loans have fewer benefits than federal student loans. Plus, you’ll often pay lower interest rates on federal loans. For these reasons, we always recommend maximizing federal student loans before turning to private student loans.
If you’re looking for a private student loan for cosmetology school, check out our student loans for trade school guide.