On April 29th, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced an initiative that shows the state’s gratitude toward those serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Futures for Frontliners” proposal aims to provide access to a college education or a technical certificate to essential workers, tuition-free. This program, inspired by the federal government’s G.I. Bill, which provides tuition-free education to soldiers, is the first of its kind in the United States.
Governor Whitmer shared, “The ‘Futures for Frontliners’ program is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to those who have risked their lives on the front lines of this crisis. This program will ensure tuition-free college opportunities and give these dedicated Michiganders an opportunity to earn a technical certificate, associate degree or even a bachelor’s degree.”
The press release from Governor Whitmer’s office states, “Frontline workers who take advantage of this program will help us reach Governor Whitmer’s goal to increase the number of working-age adults with a technical certificate or college degree from 45 percent to 60 percent by 2030. The Governor stated that she looks forward to working on enacting her proposal with the bipartisan legislative coalition that helped pass Reconnect last month, the program to offer adults over 25 without college degrees tuition-free access to community college.”
Those eligible for the proposed program will include anyone serving in an essential-services industry. This includes, but is not limited to, employees at grocery stores, delivery personnel, public safety officers, that manufacturing PPE, as well as child care workers who have been caring for the children of those on the frontline.
While the program would provide an incredible opportunity to a number of essential workers, some concerns have been raised. News station WILX interviewed one essential worker who is currently pursuing her education while also serving on the front lines. She said the program sounds like a “great idea” but the proposal lacks clarity as to who will specifically benefit from it. “It doesn’t really answer the question [if] the people who are currently [on the] frontline and are still currently studying whether or not it’s going to affect them or if we have any benefits like loan [forgiveness),” said Karolina Balciunaite.
While the proposal still must be approved by a bipartisan legislative coalition before taking effect, Governor Whitmer hopes it will show her appreciation for those selflessly serving the state of Michigan. “I want to assure all of our workers we will never forget those of you who stepped up and sacrificed their own health during this crisis,” she said. “You’re the reason we’re going to get through this.”