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Eastern Michigan University, Henry Ford College partner to extend Futures for Frontliners program

YPSILANTI, MI — Eastern Michigan University and Henry Ford College have partnered to extend Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Futures for Frontliners program to help more frontline workers obtain four-year degrees.

Once frontline workers graduate with an associate degree from HFC, they can apply to pursue a bachelor’s degree at EMU that would cover some or all of their remaining tuition balance, officials announced Wednesday.

The EMU Frontliner scholarship is available to new students who enroll at EMU.

Frontline workers are those who have jobs that have required them to work outside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes those working in grocery stores and restaurants; those in waste management services, manufacturing, public transportation; or those providing police or fire services.

Henry Ford graduates who are frontline workers, enroll at EMU and are Pell Grant eligible will receive an EMU Frontliner Scholarship to cover their remaining tuition balance, EMU officials said. The scholarship will cover 12 credits of tuition for five consecutive semesters of enrollment at EMU.

Graduates of HFC who enroll at EMU and are not Pell Grant eligible will receive an EMU Frontliner scholarship of $5,000 that will be split into increments of $1,250 for each of four consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment at 12 or more credit hours per semester, officials said.

When Whitmer announced the Futures for Frontliners program, HFC President Russ Kavalhuna said he began talking with some of his partners at four-year universities. EMU answered the call, Kavalhuna said, and they wanted to extend the program for frontline workers.

“I have not seen any other two-year or four-year institution put its own resources behind helping these essential workers the way (EMU) has,” Kavalhuna said. “…This is an opportunity for us as a society to reinvest in people who have been serving us on the front lines.”

Part of the Futures for Frontliners goal is to help Michigan meet its Sixty by 30 goal to increase the number of working-age adults with a technical certificate or college degree from 45% to 60% by 2030, according to a university news release.

The partnership between EMU and HFC will provide an increased opportunity for frontline workers to earn a postsecondary credential, and EMU President James Smith feels this is a way to give back to essential workers.

“If you think about a frontline worker, they’re literally putting their life on the line so that you and I can go to the pharmacy or the grocery store,” Smith said. “Without them, we couldn’t do that, and this is our payback to them, our ‘thank you,’ if you will.”

While it could be good for enrollment for both EMU and HFC, Smith said it’s less about enrollment for their respective institutions and more about creating an affordable pathway for frontline workers to get a bachelor’s degree, especially if more colleges develop similar partnerships.

“We really do think that the more is the merrier, and we’re anxious to see where this will take us with our colleagues,” Smith said.

The application period for the Futures for Frontliners program closes Dec. 31. More information on HFC’s Futures for Frontliners program can be found here.

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