The sudden closure of a beauty school in Bellingham has left dozens of cosmetology students in limbo, as they search for answers and options about what to do next.
The Beauty Institute-Schwarzkopf Professional on Railroad Avenue posted a sign on its door announcing the closure, but beyond that has provided few details about the school's future.
"Dear Students: As you know, The Beauty Institute closed as a result of losing its ability to access Title IV. There are current negotiations to reopen the school," the sign reads. "Once established, you will be able to transfer your current hours and continue your education. We will update you on the progress as soon as we receive more information."
Title IV refers to federal student aid funds.
"I just feel like they should give us clear answers so we can move on. So we can figure out what we need to do to get our license and further our career, but right now we are at a standstill," said Chasey Jackson.
Jackson is a single mother to two small children who had hoped to graduate from The Beauty Institute by August of 2017. She also depends on federal student aid to pay The Beauty Institute's $21,000 tuition.
"This has totally put a damper on my plans, moving forward," she said. "You know, I want to have a better life for my kids. That's what I'm trying to do."
Now, she's not sure what will happen.
Some of her cosmetology classmates are looking to transfer to other beauty schools, but the closest one is nearly 60 miles away in Everett.
That doesn't work for Jackson's family.
"I can't drive to Everett every day. With my kids and their school and before and after school childcare, I can't do that. I can't make a decision like that," she said.
The other big frustration among students is that they say the school has already changed its story several times.
"It was Wednesday, April 5, I believe, was the day they first said something," said Chloe Arguello, another student. "They were saying we're going to go on sort of a spring break for 30-45 days of closure while they figure things out and try to connect to other schools for the financial aid."
But since then, Arguello said the sign on the front door has changed three times.
"Now it's already been 30 days. We're edging on 45 now. And there's a limit on how long we can keep our hours if we're planning on transferring, but our issue is that we weren't allowed to transfer until the school was officially closed," she said.
KING 5 repeatedly tried to reach the people in charge at The Beauty Institute. The local phone number at The Beauty Institute in Bellingham was already disconnected. Other numbers on the company's website went to beauty schools in Idaho. Calls to those numbers went unanswered.
Several students did receive emails or texts from The Beauty Institute, with various messages about the school's closure.
One of those messages said that The Beauty Institutes' parent company, Beautiworks Idaho, failed to meet gainful employment regulations, which cost the school its access to Title IV student aid.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, those gainful employment regulations were put in place under the Obama administration. They are designed to protect students at career colleges from becoming burdened by student loan debt they cannot repay. You can read more about the regulations and the standards that career training programs like beauty schools must meet by clicking here.
KING 5 has reached out to the U.S. Department of Education for more details about the current status of The Beauty Institute in Bellingham.
On Tuesday, Evergreen Beauty College in Everett is holding an information session to try to help some of the Bellingham students who have been displaced and are interested in transferring. That information session will take place at 12:15 p.m. on the Everett Campus at 802 SE Everett Mall Way.