Students at a beauty school in Willimantic said they're paying thousands for tuition, but are running into numerous roadblocks on their way to graduation. And when Channel 3 Eyewitness News started digging for answers it learned the school is currently under a state review.
"I feel like our education is just being thrown on the wayside," said Melody Yargeau, of Woodstock.
She said she's always loved doing hair, but when it came time to plan a career, she decided on business school instead. After graduating and working she turned back to her original dream and enrolled in beauty school.
"This is an industry that you're constantly learning," she said. So I at least want to leave beauty school knowing the basics, and being confident with those basics."
She enrolled in the Willimantic branch of the Marinello School of Beauty, paying more than $19,000 for the cosmetology program.
Marinello was founded more than 100 years ago, and now the California-based company has schools in seven states - including Connecticut - with eight locations across the state.
Yargeau said her program has been missing a permanent teacher since January.
"We had a substitute teacher that would come in for a few hours a day, but other than that, it was up to us to get out our mannequin, try to figure out how to cut her hair and try to figure out how to color," Yargeau said.
Yargeau said not only was she not learning new skills, she wasn't getting in her required hours. If students in the program don't graduate on time, after a grace period, they have to pay even more money.
"It's just the fact when I don't see any results that I start to get concerned that they won't do anything," she said.
So Yargeau turned to Channel 3 Eyewitness News and found out the Connecticut Department of Health keeps an eye on beauty schools and investigates if they get a complaint on the curriculum or sanitary conditions.
The Meriden location has had one complaint that was closed and dismissed.
The Willimantic branch has two currently under review by the state.
Regional Director Dennis Tarr didn't want to speak to Channel 3 Eyewitness News on camera, but said ultimately, Marinello is a good value for the students' money, and they do all they can to help them complete the program on time.
But the numbers Channel 3 Eyewitness News found in the school's federal disclosure document showed only 53 percent of the students complete the cosmetology program and only 20 percent graduate on time.
As for the missing teacher - Tarr said an educator did leave in January, but they filled the position right away.
Yargeau said despite all the problems, she's still planning on seeing the program through to the end.
"It was my passion," she said. "My dream of what I wanted to do, and now I basically dread getting up and going to school every day."
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