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Bay prepares for free college program

Daily Press file photo Above, Bay College graduates make their way into the 2019 graduation ceremony at the college in Escanaba. A new program launched by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is paving the way for frontline employees who worked through the statewide lockdown earlier this year to get a degree or certificate through Michigan communty colleges. Bay College President Laura Coleman anticipates the program will boost enrollment at Bay.

ESCANABA — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently shared details on a program that will provide free community college tuition to about 625,000 essential workers. According to Bay College President Laura Coleman, the new program should boost enrollment numbers at Bay.

“We expect that we will have an increase in enrollment, because it’s an amazing opportunity for people to complete degrees they already started or to start new degrees,” Coleman said.

The Futures for Frontliners program, which will be initially funded through $24 million in federal virus-related aid, will provide scholarships to Michigan residents who worked in-person in an essential industry between April 1 and June 30.

“Anyone who worked 11 of the 13 weeks that we were all quarantined and who worked at least half-time is eligible to do this,” Coleman said.

For essential workers interested in taking classes at Bay with the help of Futures for Frontliners, Coleman said the first step is signing up for the program.

“They will need to apply to the state and get authorization,” she said.

The deadline for applications is Dec. 31. Along with the other eligibility requirements, applicants cannot already have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or be in default on a federal student loan.

Once they go through the application process for Futures for Frontliners, essential workers will be able to register for classes at Bay with their authorization details.

Coleman said she expects the impact of Future for Frontliners on Bay’s enrollment numbers to start becoming apparent in the winter 2021 semester.

“People have four years starting the first of January to participate in this particular program,” she said.

Participating students will have to attend class at least half-time for two semesters per year.

While the program will cover tuition, the cost of students’ other college expenses will not be covered by Futures for Frontliners scholarships.

“They will have to maintain the rest of their expenses,” Coleman said.

Coleman said she is excited to start welcoming new and returning students involved with the Futures for Frontliners program to Bay in the near future.

“Bay College is ready to work with you and help you to complete degrees and be able to go out and get good jobs upon completion,” she said.

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