Michigan offers free college tuition with Future for Frontliners program

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 11:02 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan is thanking frontline workers not just in words, but in actions.

On Thursday, the state began offering tuition free college to essential and frontline workers through the Futures for Frontliners program. That’s free college tuition for grocery store workers, custodial workers, hospital workers and others who helped make sure Michigan had food on the shelves and clean spaces to work in.

“Whether it was stocking shelves, delivering supplies, picking up trash, manufacturing PPE or providing medical care, you were there for us,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “Now this is your chance to pursue the degree or training you’ve been dreaming about to help you and your own family succeed.”

Whitmer first announced the program in April and shared details on how workers can apply for the first time on Thursday.

The program is modeled after the GI Bill, which provides tuition funding for military service members. The $24 million will come from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief fund, which is part of Michigan’s CARES Act share.

To qualify, workers must have worked at least part time for 11 weeks in person between April first and June 30 in an essential industry. They also must not have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

Applications will be received on the state website through Dec. 31.

State workforce officials say a high school education can be worth an additional $6,000 per year of wages while a two-year degree can help workers bring in $7,500 more per year. Currently, about 75% of jobs in Michigan require education beyond high school.

“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," said Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio.

Kroger employs about 20,000 workers who qualify for the Future for Frontliners program.

“We’re excited for them to have this hard-earned opportunity to continue their education with support from the Futures for Frontliners program which pairs well with our Feed Your Future program," said Rachel Hurst, corporate affairs manager for Kroger in Michigan.

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