State rolls out free tuition program for essential workers

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Russ Kavalhuna, Henry Ford Community College president at the college, March 14, 2019 | Ken Coleman

    Gov. Whitmer on Thursday announced a major $24 million investment to give better educational opportunities to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    She was joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) Director Jeff Donofrio, Michigan Manufacturers Association, SEIU Healthcare Michigan President Andrea Acevedo, Kroger Corporate Affairs Manager Rachel Hurst and Henry Ford College President Russ Kavalhuna.

    The “Futures for Frontliners” program is the first of its kind nationwide, Whitmer said. Using funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, essential Michigan workers will be provided a tuition-free path to higher education.

    “These men and women have emerged as the real heroes in the midst of this pandemic,” Whitmer said. “And yet, we know it’s a lot more important that we act and treat them as the heroes they are, not just call them heroes. So, we’ve got to work around the clock to ensure that long after this crisis is over, our frontline workers have the support they need to get ahead in our country.”

    Andrea Acevedo, president of SEIU Healthcare Michigan with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sept. 10, 2020 | Whitmer office photo

    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.

    Increasing the number of Michiganders who have higher education degrees has long been one of the governor’s priorities. 

    In Whitmer’s first State of the State address in February 2019, she announced the goal to have 60% of Michigan residents attain a post-high school credential by 2030.

    Applicants must complete a Futures for Frontliners scholarship application by 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31.

    To apply:

    Visit Michigan.gov/Frontliners 

    Choose either high school completion or community college and follow the instructions to apply. Complete an application by Dec. 31.

    Laina G. Stebbins
    Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, immigration and criminal justice. She is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or listening to podcasts, she loves art and design, discovering new music, being out in nature and spending time with her two cats Rainn and Remy.