About 625,000 front-line workers are eligible for tuition-free college under a program created Thursday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Futures for Frontliners. 

The $24 million program financed through federal CARES Act funding will help people obtain technical certificates, associate degrees and bachelor degrees. Eligibility applies to Michigan residents who have worked in an essential industry outside their home from April to June and have not already gained an associate or bachelor’s degree. 

“These men and women have emerged as the real heroes in the midst of this pandemic,” Whitmer said during a Thursday news conference.

The program, the governor said, is the first of its kind and was inspired by the GI bill that provided free college tuition to veterans of World War II and beyond. People working in the medical field, manufacturing, sanitation, retail and grocery stores are among those who could qualify.

“Eighty percent of Michigan’s high-growth, high-wage