80k apply for free college tuition program during pandemic

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

In just under two months after the state announced its Future for Frontliners scholarship program, more than 80,000 essential workers in Michigan have applied for free community college tuition during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rolled out the program on Sept. 10 as part of her goal to help 60% of the state’s residents attain a post-high school credential by 2030. 

“Futures for Frontliners has offered the opportunity for Michiganders, who have put themselves in harm’s way early in the pandemic, to pursue their dreams,” Kerry Ebersole, director of Sixty by 30 said. “This tuition-free path to continue educational attainment and training in high-demand areas not only offers increased wages for individuals, but also arms our businesses with the highly trained workforce they need to be competitive in today’s economy.”

The program is funded from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. To be eligible, applicants must be a Michigan resident, have worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the weeks between April 1 and June 30, have been required by their job to work outside the home at least some of the time during then, not have previously earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and not be in default on a federal student loan.

Kristy Spakowski, 45, of Saginaw, said that the scholarship program has given her the opportunity to go back to school to get a degree in nursing.

“Free tuition means more than any financial gain,” said Spakowski, a single mother of four. “It means that I can show my children that at 45 years old, it’s never too late to follow your heart. It means that I followed my dreams even when I didn’t think I could and still tried to make the world a better place by being a good nurse.”

Allison Donahue
Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.