Rhode Island Announces First Recipients of Wavemaker Fellowship to Attract and Retain STEM Talent

215 Professionals Awarded Student Loan Repayments for Up to Four Years, Average
Award Nearly $4,000 Per Year

Providence, R.I. – 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.

ABOUT THE RHODE ISLAND COMMERCE CORPORATION
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is the full-service, official, economic
development organization for the state of Rhode Island. A quasi-public agency, the
corporation serves as a government and community resource to help streamline the
business expansion in, and relocation to, Rhode Island. The agency assists companies
with commercial real estate, business financing, workforce training and other
relevant issues. For more, visit:
www.visitrhodeisland.com and
www.commerceri.com.