Photo provided - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces the launch of the Futures for Frontliners program during a press conference Thursday in Lansing. The program will offer Michigan adults without college degrees or high school diplomas who provided essential services during the pandemic tuition-free community college.

State to offer tuition-free community college to essential workers

GOCC to support and participate in program

LANSING — In a first for the United States, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday the launch of a new program that would give Michigan’s essential frontline workers free community college tuition.

The program, Futures for Frontliners, will be offered to an estimated 625,000 Michiganders who provided essential frontline services during the state’s Stay Home, Stay Safe orders between April and June of this year.

Inspired by the GI Bill, which provided college degrees or high school diplomas to those who served in World War II, the program will offer 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.”

To be eligible for the program, applicants must be a Michigan resident who worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 and June 30, 2020, have been required by their job to work outside of their home at least some of that time, have not previously earned an associate or bachelor’s degree, and are not in default of a federal student loan.

Applications for a Futures for Frontliners scholarship are due by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020, with enrollment available beginning in January 2021.

According to a release from Whitmer, the program is not only available to those in the medical field, but also essential workers in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail and other industries.

“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 program is funded by $24 million from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund, part of the CARES Act funding the state received from the federal government. Whitmer said the program supports the state’s “Sixty by 30” goal announced at her first State of the State address, an initiative to increase the number of working-age Michiganders completing an industry certificate, college degree or apprenticeship by 2030.

In a statement Thursday, Glen Oaks Community College announced they will serve as a “Frontliners Champion” to support the program and be an eligible community college.

“We believe strongly that those who were required to work during the state shutdown this past spring so that the rest of us could stay safe are heroes and deserve our thanks,” Glen Oaks President Dr. David Devier said. “Many of the men and women we represent were out in the community putting their health and lives on the line. Providing these frontline workers in essential industries with access to tuition-free community college – even if they don’t have their high school diploma or equivalency – to pursue their career and personal dreams is a wonderful way to say, ‘thank you’ – they earned this.”

More information on the Futures for Frontliners program, including details on how to apply, can be found at www.michigan.gov/frontliners.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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