Wavemaker Program Helps Rhode Island Continue Economic Momentum by Keeping Skilled Talent in State
PROVIDENCE, RI – 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 and the overall cost of education remains a significant burden for our recent college graduates,” said Governor McKee. “The Wavemaker Fellowship is an innovative program designed to provide financial relief to college graduates, helping Rhode Island retain skilled STEM and design talent, and also serve as a great recruiting tool for our local companies.”
“The Wavemaker Fellowship program helps remove the burden of student debt from recent graduates,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “This program will help local companies hire the most talented applicants in the country and keep our state’s economy competitive. When Rhode Island holds onto and recruits gifted graduates in STEM and design, the entire state benefits.”
“The Wavemaker Fellowship program is a win-win for all, including the recent graduates who can pay down their student debt more quickly and the Rhode Island businesses that benefit from employing young talent with degrees in STEM and certain design fields,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner. “Additionally, Rhode Island’s economy will receive a boost by retaining a talented and equipped workforce in high-demand occupations.”
“As the fight for talent – especially STEM and design talent – continues to be a challenge, the Wavemaker Fellowship program is more important than ever,” said Rhode Island Commerce President and Chief Operating Officer Hilary Fagan. “This program is a selling point for local companies, giving our business community a competitive edge while also giving individuals needed relief from student debt. 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 and others with a pending job offer to apply to the program. The Wavemaker program otherwise requires 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, fostering increased connections and opportunities in Rhode Island. Past events include Homebuying 101, personal finance classes, and volunteer opportunities.
“The Wavemaker Fellowship offers an excellent opportunity for Rhode Islanders working in the STEM fields to benefit from student debt relief. With this program, we are supporting the investment they’ve made in their education, because we need graduates with a strong background in the STEM fields to stay right here and contribute as members of the robust workforce we are building in these areas,” said House Majority Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
“We are excited to once again open the application period to welcome new Wavemakers,” said Senator Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), Senate sponsor of the legislation which created the Wavemaker Fellowship program. “This program has kept hundreds of talented 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 seventh round of Wavemaker Fellowship awards. The first six iterations saw 1,053 professionals awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $3,900 per year. Applicants are 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.
The FY23 budget proposed and signed into law by Governor McKee includes expanding the Wavemaker program to include health care workers and mental health care workers.
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 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 Rhode Island is encouraged to apply. The maximum annual credit is $6,000 for graduate degree holders, $4,000 for bachelor’s degree holders, and $1,000 for associate degree holders.
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 program is part of the Governor’s broader effort to make education more affordable, raise the average salary for all Rhode Islanders, and to develop a workforce with skills to succeed in the 21st century economy. To apply for the Wavemaker Fellowship, please visit wavemaker.commerceri.com. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (401) 278-9100.