Applications open for college funding for essential workers


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday the state has launched a program to offer tuition-free college for those who provided essential services while Michigan was under the stay-at-home order.

Futures for Frontliners, which Whitmer first put forth in April and is inspired by the GI Bill that funded the education of those who served during World War II, is aimed at helping workers who provided essential services who don’t have college degrees or high school diplomas.

The program can be used to complete high school education or earn a community college or a skills certificate.

People who may qualify includes those who worked in the medical field, manufacturing, nursing homes, grocery stores, sanitation, delivery and retail. The state says an estimated 625,000 people could benefit from the program.

While Whitmer ordered most people to stay at home during the height of the pandemic, workers providing essential services were still permitted to come to work.

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

To be eligible for the program, people must:

  • Be a Michigan resident.
  • Worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1 through June 30.
  • Required by their job to work outside the home at least some of the time between April 1 through June 30.
  • Don’t have an associate or bachelor’s degree.
  • Not be in default on a federal student loan.
  • Complete the scholarship application by 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31.

The program is a $24 million investment that will be funded by the governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund – part of the federal CARES Act.

More information about the program can be found online, where you can also apply.

One of the institutions people can attend as part of the program is Grand Rapids Community College.

“This has been an opportunity like no other,” Ann Isackson, associate dean of enrollment management and financial aid at GRCC, said. “It’s definitely a game changer.”

She said several potential students are already entertaining enrolling in the Future for Frontliners program.

“He had been working in a front line position in health care and wanted to change and go in a different profession,” Isackson said of one such prospective student. “This will give him the opportunity to do that.”

GRCC students said the program is a remarkable opportunity for their future classmates.

“Do it,” A.J. Williams said. “Pursue your dream.”

“Futures for Frontliners will remove cost as a barrier to an education to people who served our community in a variety of ways during very difficult times,” GRCC President Bill Pink said in a news release. “A college degree or credential will help many of our residents in these roles gain new skills to advance in their careers. GRCC is in the best position to help them, and other residents, with accessible, affordable classes.”

People interested in using the program to attend GRCC can email, call 616.234.4059 or go online to get more information.



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