Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation today announced the re-opening of Wavemaker Fellowship Applications, 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.
"A thriving STEM workforce is vital to continuing Rhode Island's economic comeback," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "We are taking important steps to keep talented people here and attract others to start their careers in Rhode Island. The Wavemaker Fellowship is a creative solution to easing the burden of college debt and provides companies with an important recruiting tool."
New this year is 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.
"The Wavemaker program is an innovative program that sets the state apart in its quest to keep more than its fair share of high-demand STEM and design talent," said R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. "This program is an effective program in Governor Raimondo's economic development toolkit and is a real difference-maker for both companies and our state's talented workforce."
"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."
Sponsored by Representative Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence) and Senator Ryan William Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), the Wavemaker Fellowship program was first passed by the General Assembly in 2015 as part of Governor Gina M. Raimondo's Jobs Plan 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 or design-related field in the state is encouraged to apply.
"Encouraging students educated in STEM as well as environmental, medical, and design fields to stay and work in Rhode Island is a critical component to attracting employers in economic sectors built upon a foundation of scientific research and technological development. The Wavemaker Fellowship is helping to create a Rhode Island workforce that is ready for many of the best jobs of today and the future, while also giving those employees relief from the crushing burden of student loan debt," said Rep. Blazejewski.
"This program is helping both our economy and our citizens get ahead," said Senator Pearson "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 third round of Wavemaker Fellowship awards. The first two iterations saw 427 professionals awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $3,900 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 57 percent of Fellows graduated from an RI institution. Full lists of past award winners can be found here.
"Through the Wavemaker Fellowship program, I have both the communal and financial support to continue to do what I love every day here in Rhode Island. It's great to meet others who are succeeding in doing what they are passionate about throughout the state, and the financial benefit is so helpful in helping me achieve other goals, like saving for a home and a family, said Stephanie Carlson, Graphic Artist at Lumetta, Inc., and 2016 Wavemaker Fellow.
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 attract and train a workforce with the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy including CS4RI and P-TECH.
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.