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More than 600K essential workers in Michigan could receive free college under new program

Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 18:31:51-04

Detroit, Mich. - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday a program that will offer essential and frontline workers in the COVID-19 crisis a tuition-free path to community college.

According to the governor's office, an estimated 625,000 Michiganders who worked during the Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June are eligible.

It was inspired by the GI Bill and will offer Michigan adults without college degrees or high school diplomas the pathway to get additional skills.

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

Eligible workers can visit www.michigan.gov/Frontliners to explore career opportunities, a list of local community colleges, and begin their application – even if they don’t already have a high school diploma.

“This initiative is Michigan’s way of expressing gratitude to essential workers for protecting public health and keeping our state running,” Whitmer said in a release. “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 $24 million investment came from the Governor's Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the Federal CARES Act.

“The vast majority of good-paying jobs continue to require at least some education beyond high school,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said in a release. “Futures for Frontliners gives those who helped save lives and kept our communities operating during the height of COVID an opportunity to increase their skills and income and helps us close the state’s skills gap. For Michigan’s economy to recover and grow, its critical we continue to provide expanded opportunities to all.”

Whitmer said this is the first-of-its-kind program in the United States, and she hopes other states will follow suit.

The program isn't just eligible for medical workers. It's also available to people who worked in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail, and more.

This story was first reported by WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan.