New scholarship available for front-liners ineligible for federal aid

A new scholarship will create a tuition-free pathway for essential workers not eligible for federal financial aid.

The Michigan Equity, Courage, Hope, and Opportunity Scholarship — MI ECHO — is intended to put life-changing education within reach for more people.

The program is for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status immigrants, Special Immigrant Juveniles, and others who are excluded from most traditional financial aid opportunities.

The scholarship is funded by private donors and philanthropic organizations, and administered by the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), a Lansing-based advocacy group focused on increasing college readiness, participation, and completion, especially among low-income, first-generation college students, as well as students of color.

How to qualify

MI ECHO is for people who cannot access federal financial aid and who worked in an essential job during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with the March 2020 shutdown. Candidates must live in Michigan and be eligible for acceptance into a certificate or associate degree program and cannot have previously earned an associate or bachelor's degree in any country.

At Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), the scholarship can be used as early as the Winter 2022 semester, and registration for classes is now open.

“Our community grows stronger when everyone has access to higher education,” says Tina Hoxie, GRCC’s associate provost and dean of Student Affairs. “Futures for Frontliners and Michigan Reconnect have made it possible for thousands of people to start or restart their education at GRCC. The MI ECHO scholarship will help even more people gain new skills for careers, help their families, and change their lives.”

Funds limited, so apply early

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, contact hours, and other mandatory fees to help students work toward a degree or earn a career-focused certificate. Applications may be submitted through Dec. 31, 2022. Funds are limited, so people interested in the scholarship are encouraged to apply as early as they are able.

Students must enroll in an associate degree or certificate program within six months of being accepted or reapply.

“We were excited to see how Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer’s Futures for Frontliners program changed the conversation around community college and brought in so many Michiganders who are eager to improve their economic opportunities through postsecondary education,” says Ryan Fewins-Bliss, MCAN executive director.

“We designed MI ECHO to mirror that opportunity for workers who served in essential roles throughout the pandemic but who are unable to access federal financial aid,” he said. “MI ECHO honors the hard work of these individuals while investing in our workforce and moving us closer to our state’s Sixty by 30 goal (getting 60% of Michigan's workforce to attain learning beyond high school by 2030).”

Learn how to take advantage of the MI ECHO program by reaching out.

Here’s how:
Read the Spanish version of this story in El Vocero. 

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.