Gov. Whitmer Launches Free College Tuition Program for Frontline Workers in Michigan

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(WWJ) A new program now offers essential, frontline workers in Michigan a tuition-free path to community college.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, along with leaders in education, business, labor and workforce development, on Thursday launched the nation’s first program offering tuition-free college to an estimated 625,000 Michiganders who provided essential, frontline services during COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June, 2020.

Futures for Frontliners, inspired by the GI Bill which provided college degree to those serving their country in WWII, offers Michigan adults without college degrees or high school diplomas who provided essential services during the pandemic a tuition-free pathway to gaining the skills needed to obtain high-demand, high-wage careers.

The funding is not only available to those in the medical field, but also essential workers in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail and more.

"These are the real heroes who have emerged in the midst of this pandemic," Whitmer said, at a news conference announcing the program. "And yet we know it's a lot more important that we act and treat them as the heroes that they are, not just call them heroes."

To be eligible for the program, applicants must:

• Be a Michigan resident• Have worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 – June 30, 2020• Have been required by their job to work outside the home at least some of the time between April 1 – June 30, 2020• Not have previously earned an associate or bachelor’s degree• Not be in default on a Federal student loan• Complete a Futures for Frontliners scholarship application by 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 2020

“This initiative is Michigan’s way of expressing gratitude to essential workers for protecting public health and keeping our state running,” Whitmer said. “Whether it was stocking shelves, delivering supplies, picking up trash, manufacturing PPE or providing medical care, you were there for us. Now this is your chance to pursue the degree or training you’ve been dreaming about to help you and your own family succeed.”

The program is a $24M investment funded by Governor’s Education Emergency Relief (GEER) Fund – part of the CARES Act, and supports the state’s Sixty by 30 goal announced at the Governor’s first state of the state address to increase the number of working-age Michiganders completing an a industry certificate, college degree or apprenticeship. A more educated workforce is essential to help businesses grow, make Michigan a more competitive state to attract jobs of the future and help families navigate a changing economy and increase income.