Calling front-line workers the “real heroes in the midst of this pandemic,” Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on September 10, 2020, that the state would be funding a program to offer free college tuition for as many of those workers as possible.
The program, which is called Futures for Frontliners, is based on the GI bill, the allowance for free college tuition available to most veterans. Beginning with a $24 million budget, organizers hope to grow it in the future. A further $1 million commitment is earmarked to help cover non-tuition expenses, such as application fees, placement tests, and tutoring.
Approximately 650,000 workers are eligible to apply, based on what fields they worked in from April to June of this year. Included fields are medical, manufacturing, retail, grocery, and sanitation, among others. Eligible workers must have worked outside the home for at least 11 weeks during that period and can’t yet have any kind of a college degree. The tuition-free education can be towards a two-year degree, a certification, or any other education required to further one’s career goals.
One of Gov. Whitmer’s plans during her gubernatorial campaign was to work towards increasing the education of Michigan’s workforce. Currently, approximately 45 percent of adults in the state have either skills training or a college degree. This new program meshes neatly with her goal of raising that number to 60 percent by 2030.
“A strong talent pipeline is essential to a strong economy,” said Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, which monitors and analyzes workforces in the state. “Empowering individuals, especially the frontline workers getting our state through the COVID-19 crisis, to continue or restart their educations is a well-deserved recognition for their service.”
Applications for those interested in the Futures for Frontliners program are due by December 31, 2020, and more details, including about eligibility, can be found here.