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Deadline for frontliners to apply for free college funds is Dec. 31

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

For frontline workers who want to land a better job and increase their wages, it's last call.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to remind essential workers on Tuesday that the deadline is Dec. 31 to apply for Futures for Frontliners, the Michigan program offering free community college.

Workers who earn a degree or skills certificate could get on a path for one of the most in-demand careers and earn double or triple the state's $9.65 minimum wage.

Workers who earn a degree or skills certificate could get on a path for one of the most in-demand careers and earn double or triple the state's $9.65 minimum wage.

"Our frontline workers put their lives on the line every day to provide crucial support to our families during this pandemic, and they deserve support long after this crisis is over," Whitmer said. "This initiative is not only a way to say, ‘Thank you,’ it’s an opportunity to provide a pathway to better paying jobs."

Over 100,000 people have applied since the program first was announced in September. Piggybacking off of the program, Eastern Michigan University and Henry Ford College also announced a partnership to pay for students to earn a four-year degree. 

With the deadline approaching, officials also plan to highlight fields that are in demand, and their hourly wages, to nudge people to seek more education to boost their wages.

For instance, a certification in heating, ventilation and air conditioning could lead to work in refrigeration mechanic or installation, where there are more than 1,000 jobs open annually, earning $22.85 an hour. Or, an associate degree in nursing could lead to a registered nursing degree, earning $34.74 an hour.

"There are jobs that go unfilled or left open for extended periods of time because there are shortages in specific certificates,” said Kerry Ebersole, director of the Office of Sixty by 30. "We really want to align both this educational opportunity with the Futures for Frontliners program with those in-demand careers. It helps these individuals on a path for a more prosperous future but it arms our businesses with the talent they need to be competitive in today’s economy.”

Futures for Frontliners is the nation's first for people who went to work to provide essential services while most people were hunkered down at home at the beginning of the pandemic. It is modeled after the federal government’s support of soldiers returning from World War II by providing educational opportunities.

To learn more, go to https://www.michigan.gov/frontliners/.