215 Professionals Awarded Student Loan Repayments for Up to Four Years, Average Award Nearly $4,000 Per Year
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation announced today that it has selected the recipients of the first Wavemaker Fellowship awards. Following a competitive review process, a total of 215 college graduates who work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields at Rhode Island employers will receive the award, which is a tax credit to defray the cost associated with student loan repayment for a minimum of two years for graduates pursuing careers or starting businesses in IT, engineering, design and other key sectors in Rhode Island.
"Every week I meet talented, highly-skilled students who tell me they are choosing between a job here or a job in another state – and I want them to call Rhode Island home," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "The average recipient of the Wavemaker Fellowship will get approximately $300 in loan relief per month, which will go a long way for the young professionals working and starting a career in Rhode Island – this could be the difference between living at home or getting an apartment with a roommate. The Wavemaker Fellowship is helping to make our state the place where young people want to start and grow their careers – and where businesses want to be."
The Wavemaker Fellowship program, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2015 as part of Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Jobs Plan, opened for applications in May 2016 to provide a financial incentive for RI 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-related field in the state was encouraged to apply.
Over three hundred Rhode Islanders submitted applications before the June 15 deadline earlier this year. The average annual award for the first group of Wavemaker Fellows is approximately $3,750 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. Approximately 60 percent of Fellows graduated from an RI institution, and 90 percent of Fellows are Rhode Island residents choosing to work in the state.
"In their applications, many recipients stated that the Wavemaker Fellowship would provide enough financial relief to keep them in Rhode Island instead of accepting job offers elsewhere," said Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island's Secretary of Commerce. "Retaining these skilled and motivated young professionals is crucial to building our state's profile as a leader in advanced industries. Many Wavemaker Fellowship recipients are recent graduates, some have earned two or even three degrees, and some are new parents with new expenses. By helping these talented awardees secure their futures in Rhode Island, we are helping to ensure the success of our advances industries and of our economy. Congratulations to these STEM stars, their families, and their employers."
The Wavemaker Fellowship is one of very few programs of its kind in the country. The inaugural group of recipients comes from a wide array of Rhode Island businesses and local institutions, including colleges and universities, hospitals, non-profit organizations and small businesses. The Governor's first budget included $1.75 million to fund this Fellowship program. With high interest from students and other stakeholders in the program, the Governor's budget doubled the funding for next year's program to $3.5 million.
Awards of varying amounts were granted to candidates who have successfully graduated with graduate, bachelors and associates degrees and who have found work or started their own business in Rhode Island. The award is delivered to recipients in the form of a fully-redeemable tax credit. As part of the Fellowship, awardees will have the opportunity to participate in organized activities that enable them to get to know one another and that build and ever stronger STEM community.