PROVIDENCE, RI- Today Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation announced the re-opening of Wavemaker Fellowship Applications, a competitive student loan reimbursement program for recent graduates working in STEM 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.
"Preparing Rhode Islanders for the growing number of local jobs in STEM and design is key to sustaining our economic comeback," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "We are taking steps to keep our talented people here and attract others to start their careers in Rhode Island. The Wavemaker Fellowship is a creative solution to helping professionals with their college debt, while giving companies an important recruiting tool."
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.
"The Wavemaker program is an innovative and important program that helps the state keep more than its fair share of high-demand STEM and design employees," said R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "This is a valuable tool to help expand our state's talented workforce. We thank Governor Raimondo and the General Assembly for providing this tool and supporting our Wavemaker fellows."
"The Wavemaker Fellowship program provides an opportunity for STEM and design professionals in Rhode Island to start their careers without the additional worry of student loan debt and allows them to focus on making a life and building a career here in Rhode Island," said Jillian Butler, Wavemaker Fellowship Director. "The program also supports recruitment and retention efforts of companies who are growing and hiring high-quality talent in these key fields."
For the second consecutive year, 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.
"This program is helping both our economy and our citizens get ahead," said Senator Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln). "Beyond the benefits to Rhode Island's economy, which are many, this program does a lot to relieve students in STEM careers from the heavy burdens of student loan debt. When we alleviate a portion of that burden, it frees up income that allows these graduates to stay here and stimulate the local economy. It's good for businesses, good for students and good for the state."
This is the fourth round of Wavemaker Fellowship awards. The first three iterations saw 667 professionals awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $3,800 per year. Applicants were evaluated on a variety of criteria, including 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 below.
"It feels very rewarding to know that my dedication is recognized and valued by the State, and I look forward to growing my career here in R.I. for many years. The Wavemaker Fellowship helps to level the economic playing field for those struggling with student debt. With this award, I aim to pay off my student loans ahead of schedule, increase my 401k contribution, and support my favorite local charity," said James Hobson, Software Quality Assurance at CORE Business Technologies, 2017 Wavemaker Fellow.
The Wavemaker Fellowship program was first passed by the General Assembly in 2015 as part of Governor Raimondo's Jobs Plan 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.
To apply for the Wavemaker Fellowship, please visit http://wavemaker.commerceri.com. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 401-278-9100.