Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash
Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently, during an event on Belle Isle in Detroit marking the state’s return to normal, called for the expansion of the Futures for Frontliners scholarship program to meet increased demand and popularity. The tuition-free scholarships would now include frontline workers who served between November 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021.
“Today we are taking the last big step to get back to normal, but we will never forget the frontline workers along the way who helped us get here,” Whitmer said at the June 22 event.
“That’s why I’m calling on the legislature to join me in expanding the Futures for Frontliners scholarship program to cover the selfless Michiganders who stepped up in unprecedented ways to keep our state moving,” Whitmer added. “As we put Michigan back to work, this will help people get into good-paying, high-demand careers, which will boost our economic jumpstart even further.”
With the expansion, upwards of 22,000 additional workers would be eligible to apply for this opportunity. This would add on to the more than 120,000 essential workers who quickly applied for the program when it launched in the last quarter of 2020.
The additional $100 million investment would come from federal American Rescue Plan funding.
“We know that a strong state and a strong economy requires an educated and skilled workforce, and by expanding and investing in programs like Futures for Frontliners, we can help more Michiganders prepare for rewarding careers that provide stability to them and their families,” said Kerry Ebersole, Michigan Department of Labor and economic Opportunity’s Office of Sixty by 30 director.
“Our Frontliners students have been hard at work gaining the knowledge and skills required for today’s job market,” said Lake Michigan College President, Dr. Trevor A. Kubatzke. “Expanding this opportunity will boost our regional economy and improve the lives of many deserving students and their families.”
“We are proud that so many OCC grads have found great careers in industries like health care, manufacturing, public safety and culinary, and we are excited to be able to offer the opportunity for Futures for Frontliners students to gain the skills they need to be part of these vital industries,” said Oakland Community College Chancellor Peter Provenzano, Jr.
When the Futures for Frontliners program launched in September 2020, Michigan was the first in the nation to utilize $24 million from the 2020 Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide a tuition-free path to a post-secondary education.
In just over three months’ time, more than 120,000 Michiganders applied for the program and nearly 16,000 of those applicants are already enrolled in classes with a semester completed through their local community college.
Futures for Frontliners, inspired by the GI Bill which provided college degree to those serving their country in WWII, offers eligible Michigan adults without college degrees or high school diplomas who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 a tuition-free pathway to gaining the skills needed to obtain high-demand, high-wage careers. The funding was not only available to those in the medical field, but also essential workers in manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery, retail and more.