MN Lawmakers should support bill cutting barber training hours

Getting a barber license is not easy in Minnesota. Currently, state law requires that anyone applying for a barber license go through 1,500 hours of training, take four exams, and pay some fees. Additionally, aspiring barbers can only apply if they have completed 10th grade education.

All of this is costly. The Minnesota School of Barbering, for instance, charges $12,000 in tuition for a 1,500-hour program. Moreover, students pay $1,700 for materials, and a $100 application fee, all adding up to $14,000.

Despite the enormous cost (in time and money) that barbers incur, there is no evidence showing that such stringent training requirements significantly improve quality and/or safety.

These requirements, however, keep low-income Minnesotans away from the barber industry. According to a report from the Institute of Justice, about two out of every three graduates from cosmetology school have student debt, a sign of the tremendous burden that licensing requirements bestow on applicants.

But workers are not the only ones who suffer. Stringent licensing requirements also restrict the supply of services. As a result, Minnesotans (including low-income) pay higher prices for barber services.

A new bill offers reform

Reform is necessary. Fortunately, Bill HF 3072, introduced by Representative Samantha Vang, offers a way forward.

Specifically, the bill does the following, among other things,

  1. Opens barbering to all applicants over 17 years old regardless of education level.
  2. Reduces required training hours from 1,500 to 1,200.
  3. Requires that the examining board offers 8 exams a year instead of 6.
  4. Removes the requirement that applicants who fail to take an exam four years after finishing school must retake 500 additional hours of training to take their exam. The bill requires such applicants, instead, to purchase and complete a “Home Study Course for Barbers”

The bill, unfortunately, has some proposals that would also complicate the licensing process, both for applicants and the licensing board. HF 3072, for example, requires that “an individual who does not pass one portion of the comprehensive examination within a year of passing the other portion of the comprehensive examination must retake the entire comprehensive examination.”

Additionally, the bill specifies what practical exams must cover. While currently, the Minnesota Board of Baber examiners decides what to put on their exam, the bill proposes that the practical portion of the licensing exam includes “a haircut and three of the following practical services that the board shall determine; a shave, a beard trim, a shampoo, a perm wrap, a facial, or a color application.” The bill also requires that a licensing exam be graded on a scale of 100, with 75 as the minimum passing score.

More can be done

Burdensome licensing rules present a problem not just for workers, but for the entire Minnesota economy. HF 3072 is, therefore, a step in the right direction to remedying that issue.

More can be done, however, to reduce the cost that licensing laws present to Minnesotans, as American Experiment previously suggested.

For one, states vary widely on the number of education training hours that they require for barbers. Florida, for example, requires applicants to complete just 600 hours of training. The hours are also low in other states such as Oregon and Vermont. Among Minnesota’s four neighbors, Wisconsin requires the lowest number of training hours at 1,000

Minnesota lawmakers should, therefore, not feel restricted to 1,200 hours. If the aforementioned states are any indication, lawmakers can reduce hours even further in Minnesota.

Additionally, lawmakers can look into reducing training hours for cosmetologists, who are weighed down by similar requirements.