LANSING – Essential workers who continued to put in time during the COVID-19 pandemic will now be eligible for free college tuition to further their education.
The Future for Frontliners, which was announced in April, was inspired by the G.I Bill that provided college education to those who served during WWII.
While the plan is currently limited to community colleges, it is not limited to the field an essential worker works in. Workers in the medical field, retail, sanitation, nursing homes, grocery stores and more may be eligible.
“This initiative is Michigan’s way of expressing gratitude to essential workers for protecting public health and keeping our state running,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. “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.”
To be considered as eligible for the program, one must be a Michigan resident, have worked in an essential industry at least part time for 11 of the 13 weeks from April 1-June 30, have been required to work outside of the home at least some of the time from April 1-June 30, not have previously earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, not be in default on a federal student loan and must complete a Futures for Frontliners scholarship application by 11:59 p.m. on Dec 31.
Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said that this is a big opportunity for Michiganders.
“The vast majority of good-paying jobs continue to require at least some education beyond high school,” he said. “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, it’s critical we continue to provide expanded opportunities to all.”
Henry Ford College President Russ Kavalhuna said the college is proud to be participating in the program.
“Henry Ford College and I, personally, are proud to support the Futures for Frontliners program and to partner with the state of Michigan and other public and private partners to help frontline workers create a better future,” he said. “We believe this program represents a unique, first-of-its-kind opportunity for people who have earned a college education. They put themselves at risk to serve Michigan residents during a pandemic. We will put their futures at the forefront now.”
Front-line workers can visit www.michigan.gov/Frontliners to explore career opportunities, a list of local community colleges, check if they are eligible and to get started on their applications.
The program is a $24 million investment funded by the governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund — part of the federal CARES Act.
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’s 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
Who is considered an essential employee?
Using guidance from the federal government, in Executive Order 2020-70, Whitmer identified workers, and the fields they work in, that are critical to protecting and serving Michiganders during the COVID-19 emergency as:
• Health care and public health, including hygiene, hazardous materials and environmental health
• Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders
• Food and agriculture
• Water and wastewater
• Transportation and logistics
• Public works
• Communications and information technology (IT), including news media
• Other community-based government operations and essential functions
• Critical manufacturing
• Financial services
• Chemical supply chains and safety
• Defense industrial base
• Additional critical infrastructure workers