PROVIDENCE – Two hundred and sixty-two college graduates will get student loan reimbursements of up to $6,000 annually under refundable tax credits announced by Gov. Daniel J. McKee and R.I. Commerce Corp. on Tuesday.
The awards through the state’s Wavemaker Fellowship program are for professionals working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, commercial design and health care.
Of the 262 new fellows, 125 are from STEM and design fields and 137 from health care.
“The Wavemaker Fellowship is a key part of our strategy to ease the burden of student loan debt in Rhode Island, while helping the State retain skilled talent,” McKee said in a statement. “For the first time, we are recognizing our amazing health care workers, a sector critical to the success of Rhode Island’s economy, as a part of this program.”
The governor’s office noted that this is the eighth round of Wavemaker awards. The first seven rounds saw over 1,400 recent college graduates awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $4,600 per year. The awards can cover student loan payments for up to four years.
According to R.I. Commerce, just over half of the new fellows attended a Rhode Island-based college. That’s down from the nearly seven in 10 previous fellows who attended Rhode Island schools.
It was not immediately clear how many of the new tax credit recipients are Rhode Island residents. Through 2022, 87% of fellows were Rhode Island residents.
A key part of the evaluation of each applicant is how the award might influence the applicant’s decision to stay and work in Rhode Island.
“The Wavemaker Fellowship is one of many tools in our toolkit designed to help us recruit and retain the next generation of Rhode Island workers,” said R.I. Commerce Secretary Elizabeth Tanner. “As we continue to target and invest in the rapidly growing health sciences sector in our state, alongside investments like the state health lab and Life Science Hub, this fellowship will help Rhode Island build on our momentum in this field.”
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 fiscal 2024 budget expands the Wavemaker program to include teachers. The next application period will open in 2024.
(SUBS paragraphs 6-7 with data on schools attended.)