HFC partners with the state to provide Futures for Frontliners free-tuition program
At a Sept. 10 press conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, along with business leaders and HFC President Russell Kavalhuna, officially launched Futures for Frontliners. The unique program will offer a tuition-free college education to the estimated 625,000 Michigan citizens who have served as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the first program of its kind in the United States, and I’m hopeful that other states will see the wisdom and follow Michigan’s lead to create pathways to opportunity for people who’ve been on the front lines,” said Whitmer.
Inspired by the GI Bill, which provided a college education to those who served in the military during World War II, Futures for Frontliners offers Michigan adults who provided essential services during the pandemic a tuition-free pathway to gaining the skills needed to obtain high-demand, high-wage careers.
Essential workers eligible for Futures for Frontliners risked their health, and their lives, to provide essential services during the pandemic, including:
- Hospital and nursing home staff
- Grocery store employees
- Childcare providers serving critical infrastructure workers
- Personal protective equipment manufacturers
- Public safety employees
- Sanitation workers
- Delivery drivers/postal workers
“They put themselves at risk to serve Michigan residents during a pandemic,” said Kavalhuna. “We will put their futures at the forefront now.”
Kavalhuna expressed his excitement about Futures for Frontliners – which he called the best news he’s heard in months. HFC is proud to support this program and will work with public and private entities to help Michigan build its future both individually and as a society.
“We are going to commit to make it worth their time,” said Kavalhuna. “Our College wants to make sure that every single class they take is a step forward to a new career or an enhanced career. We will work hard to understand their goals and to achieve a path for them to accomplish those goals. We will assist them in their financial needs, their academic needs, and their social needs during their college experience.”
To be eligible for the program, applicants must:
- Be a Michigan resident
- Have worked in an essential industry at least part-time for 11 of the 13 weeks between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020
- Have been required by their job to work outside the home at least some of the time between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020
- Have not previously earned an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree
- Have not defaulted on a federal student loan
- Have completed a Futures for Frontliners application by Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
If applicants meet these requirements, they will be able to begin their studies at HFC as early as Winter 2021 Semester, which begins Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.
“This initiative is Michigan’s way of expressing gratitude to essential workers for protecting public health and keeping our state running,” Whitmer said. “Whether it was stocking shelves, delivering supplies, picking up trash, manufacturing PPE, or providing medical care, you were there for us. Now this is your chance to pursue the degree or training you’ve been dreaming about, to help you and your own family succeed.”
Funding and details
Futures for Frontliners is a $24M investment funded by Governor’s Education Emergency Relief (GEER) Fund – which is part of the CARES Act. It also supports Whitmer's 60 by 30 Action Alliance. The latter is an initiative Whitmer announced in her first State of the State Address that will increase the number of Michigan citizens with a post-secondary credential to 60% by 2030 to meet the demand for skilled workers. A more educated workforce is essential to help businesses grow, to make Michigan a more competitive state to attract jobs of the future, to help families navigate a changing economy, and to increase income.
Besides Whitmer and Kavalhuna, other speakers at the press conference were:
- Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II
- Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
- Andrea Acevedo, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan
- John Walsh, President of the Michigan Manufacturers Association
- Rachel Hurst, Corp. Affairs Manager for the Kroger Co.
“As an employer of nearly 20,000 frontline associates here in Michigan and beyond, we are proud and thankful for each of our employees who stepped up to feed our customers and our communities during the pandemic,” said Hurst. “We’re excited for them to have this hard-earned opportunity to continue their education with support from the Futures for Frontliners program, which pairs well with our Feed Your Future program.”
Added Walsh: “Michigan manufacturers have been on the front lines in defense against the COVID-19 threat, creating essential products necessary for daily life – from food and pharmaceuticals, to transportation and even toilet paper. The Futures for Frontliners program will recognize these truly-deserving heroes, investing in their personal future as well as the economic future of our state.”
Advocates for additional career training stated that Futures for Frontliners also helps them offset training costs and provide another avenue for retention and long-term career growth. Several other business organizations, corporations, unions, and legislators have volunteered to serve as Frontliners Champions. These Champions will inform their frontline workers, members, and constituents about this tuition-free college opportunity.
According to Kavalhuna, a college degree or a post-high school credential will not only make lives for essential workers better, but will benefit society as a whole. That is why HFC offers so many academic programs that are connected to closing Michigan’s skills gap.
“Those programs are – candidly – a path to the middle class,” he said. “Michigan Frontliners deserve that path. So we are committed to helping Frontliners in any academic or workforce program at our College – to help them in their path. We will support them all the way from graduation into their new careers.”
For more information about Futures for Frontliners, visit the HFC Frontliners website.