Executive Vice President- Client Services
Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
Q. How does the Wavemaker Fellowship Program help to keep some of Rhode Island’s best graduates? How is it contributing to Rhode Island’s economic growth?
A. The Wavemaker Fellowship program provides student loan debt relief to qualifying individuals who work in Rhode Island in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or commercial design field in the form of an annual tax credit for up to four years. The maximum value of this tax credit is equal to the Fellow’s annual eligible higher education loan repayment expense, up to the following caps:
- If your highest degree is an associate’s degree, the cap on your award is $1,000
- If your highest degree is a bachelor’s degree, the cap on your award is $4,000
- If your highest degree is a graduate school degree, the cap on your award is $6,000
For example, if a Fellow’s minimum monthly payment is $300, their eligible expenses would be $3,600 (12 months x $300).
The program was established in 2015 as a part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s Jobs Plan. According to the State’s strategy for economic development, we need to continue to invest in and build upon biomedical innovation; IT, cyber and data analytics; defense, shipbuilding and maritime industries; advanced business services, and design, food and custom manufacturing.
An important part of that strategy is to retain the high-quality STEM talent necessary for these key industries that are critical to our advanced economy. Graduates from RI institutions have, on average, $33,000 in higher education student loan debt, the 5th highest in the country. The financial assistance provided through this program is a critical factor to many recipients who are determining if they can afford to stay in Rhode Island or if they should pursue opportunities in another State.
We want these talented young professionals to call Rhode Island home. 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.
For companies, it makes doing business in the State of Rhode Island more attractive. If their employees have the opportunity to apply for a Fellowship like this one, they may have a competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining top talent.
It’s a win-win-win program.
Q. Who is eligible to apply for the Wavemaker Fellowship program?
A. Anyone with higher education loan debt and who is employed full-time, or has an offer of full-time employment, in Rhode Island with a private company, non-profit, or university in a STEM or commercial design field is eligible to apply.
This program defines STEM and commercial design fields as: life, natural, or environmental sciences; computer, information, or software technology; advanced mathematics or finance; engineering; industrial design or other commercially related design field; or medicine or medical device technology. For a sample list of qualifying occupations, click here.
Applications are being accepted for the 2017 Wavemaker Fellowship until June 23rd. For more information, and to apply, click here.
Questions? Email Jillian Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 401-278-9153.