Providence, RI (STL.News) Governor Dan McKee and Rhode Island Commerce today announced the re-opening of applications for the Wavemaker Fellowship program, a competitive student loan reimbursement program for recent graduates working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and certain design fields.
The Wavemaker Fellowship awards graduates working in STEM and design jobs in Rhode Island with a refundable tax credit that can cover student loan payments up to $6,000 per year for up to four years. More information, including the application, is available at wavemaker.commerceri.com.
“Student debt is one of the biggest burdens facing our college graduates,” said Governor Dan McKee “The Wavemaker Fellowship is an innovative and important program that not only provides relief for our graduates and helps Rhode Island retain our skilled STEM and design talent, but it’s also a great recruiting tool for our local companies.”
“The Wavemaker Fellowship program is a proven differentiator in the fight for STEM and design talent,” said R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. “Companies consistently tell us that it’s a top priority for them to attract a skilled workforce in the STEM and design fields. This program gives our business community a competitive edge while also giving individuals needed relief from student debt. In addition, this program has helped develop a strong cohort of Wavemaker Fellows who have built strong and long-lasting connections to the Ocean State. We are pleased that the program is making applications available once again.”
Once again, the program will also grant applicants an “early action” opportunity, which allows graduating seniors with a pending job offer to apply to the program. Previously, the program required the applicant to have already accepted a job offer or begun working in Rhode Island.
In addition to student loan relief, the program also provides educational and networking opportunities, engendering increased connections and opportunities in Rhode Island. Past events include Homebuying 101, personal finance classes, and volunteer opportunities.
“We are excited to once again open the application period to welcome new Wavemakers,” said Senator Ryan Pearson, Senate sponsor of the legislation which created the Wavemaker Fellowship program. “This program has kept 893 individuals living and working in Rhode Island across high demand fields like science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is critical to Rhode Island’s future to retain this talent and this program is a key part of our strategy.”
This is the sixth round of Wavemaker Fellowship awards. The first five iterations saw 893 professionals awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $3,700 per year. Applicants were evaluated on a variety of criteria, but most importantly by their pursuit of careers in key advanced industries and the impact of the award on the applicants’ decisions to stay and work in Rhode Island. Full lists of past award winners can be found here.
The Wavemaker Fellowship program was first passed by the General Assembly in 2015 to provide a financial incentive for Rhode Island graduates to stay in-state for a job or to start a business. Any candidate with higher education loan debt who is employed in a STEM or design-related field in the state is encouraged to apply.
The program was named ‘Most Promising Initiative’ in 2017 by the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), as part of their “Creating a Better Future Awards” celebrating outstanding economic development initiatives from across the country. SSTI is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The Wavemaker Fellowship is available to graduates who have incurred student loan debt during the completion of an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree and are pursuing careers in STEM or design-related fields including life, natural or environmental sciences; computer, information or software technology; advanced mathematics or finance; engineering; industrial design or other commercially-related design field; or medical or medical device technology in the state.
The maximum annual credit is $6,000 for graduate degree holders, $4,000 for bachelor’s degree holders, and $1,000 for associate’s degree holders. The program is part of the Governor’s broader effort to make education more affordable and train a workforce with the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy.