Essential workers will have the opportunity to receive tuition-free college education, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday.
Futures for Frontliners, the first program of its kind in the United States, provides those who have worked the front lines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the ability to earn free college credit at any of the state’s 28 public community colleges.
“Futures for Frontliners is a tuition-free college opportunity that will help more workers acquire technical certificates, associate’s degrees at our community colleges and, potentially, bachelor’s degrees at our universities after this crisis is over,” Whitmer said.
The program, which is funded by a $24 million investment from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund provided by the coronavirus relief bill, is designed to give back to the heroes that kept Michigan safe during the pandemic, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said.
“The Futures for Frontliners program is a national model — a first-of-its-kind down payment — on our debt of gratitude to these brave women and men who stayed on the front lines during this pandemic,” Gilchrist said. “Because of their work, so many Michiganders were able to stay home and stay safe. … Now, it is our turn to help them by providing a tuition-free pathway to a post-secondary education.”
To apply for the community college program, an individual must be a Michigan resident, have a high school diploma or equivalent, have worked in an essential industry at least part time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 and June 30, have been required by their job to work outside the home for some of the time between April and June, not have previously earned a two- or four-year collegiate degree and not be in default on a federal student loan.
Those who attend their in-district community college will work toward their degree tuition-free. While about 80% of students live in a community college district, those who do not must pay a discounted price to attend the college of their choice.
To find your local community college, click here.
The program does not cover costs for books and supplies, technology, childcare expenses or transportation expenses.
President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan Andrea Acevedo said the program provides the ability for medical workers to expand their talent as the health care workforce grows.
“Being able to get a tuition-free degree or training while on the job is a huge advantage in the changing health care landscape, where degrees, certificates and training (are) paramount in growing one’s skill set,” Acevedo said.
The Future for Frontliners program also addresses two critical needs in the manufacturing industry, President and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association John Walsh said — to recognize and reward workers who stayed on the front lines and help upscale workers to meet the needs of the 21st century economy.
The flexibility of the program allows for people to continue making money to support their families while enhancing their education and skills in the workforce.
“The program is flexible so that essential workers can pursue a college degree or certificate while working, earning more pay and seeking advancements in their career,” Walsh said.
Futures for Frontliners also offers a way for workers who have not received their diploma to complete high school.
To apply for and be accepted into the high school completion pathway, an individual must be a Michigan resident, be at least 18 years old, have been employed in an essential industry and worked at least 20 hours per week for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 and June 30.
To maintain eligibility for this pathway, a person must continue to live in Michigan and have been required to work outside their home between April and June 2020.
Applications for the Futures for Frontliners are due at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020, and more information about the program can be found here.
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