Governor Dan McKee and Rhode Island Commerce today announced the addition of 262 new fellows to the Wavemaker Fellowship, a competitive student loan reimbursement program for professionals working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), certain design fields, and the healthcare sector.
The Wavemaker Fellowship awards refundable tax credits of up to $6,000 per year for up to four years. This application cycle was open to STEM and commercial design professionals as well as healthcare workers, including but not limited to behavioral health professionals, chiropractors, dentists and dental hygienists, medical technicians, mental health counselors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, pharmacists, physicians, and speech-language pathologists. Of the 262 new fellows, 125 are from STEM and certain design fields, and 137 from healthcare.
“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,” said Governor McKee. “For the first time, we are recognizing our amazing healthcare workers, a sector critical to the success of Rhode Island’s economy, as a part of this program.”
This is the eighth round of Wavemaker Fellowship awards. The first seven iterations saw over 1,400 professionals awarded student loan repayment for at least two years, with an average award of approximately $4,600 per year. Applicants are evaluated on a variety of criteria, but most importantly by their pursuit of careers in key industries and the impact of the award on the applicants’ decisions to stay and work in Rhode Island.
“For Rhode Island to thrive, it is vital that we provide relief from the burden of student loan debt. The trifecta of the Wavemaker, Promise, and Hope programs are eliminating debt for Rhode Islanders at every step of their educational and professional journeys,” said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. “We’re excited to continue expanding these initiatives and creating a pipeline of well-qualified employees for our most needed industries.”
“I’m proud to have partnered with Leader Pearson from the Wavemaker Fellowship’s inception to retain hundreds of talented Rhode Island graduates who are prepared and ready to enter high-demand areas of our workforce, and it is particularly exciting that this cohort includes students entering the health care field,” said House Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski. “It’s more important now than ever that our STEM and health care graduates stay here in Rhode Island.”
“I was the Senate sponsor of the bill that established the Wavemaker Fellowship, and eight years later, I’m proud to see this program is still successfully supporting our young professionals,” said Senate Majority Leader Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln). “The COVID-19 pandemic placed a much-needed emphasis on public health efforts, and it’s more important than ever that Rhode Island retains our recent health care graduates.”
“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 Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Liz 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.”
“Supporting our healthcare workforce is a key part of our mission to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to high quality health services,” said Richard Charest, Secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health & Human Services. “The Wavemaker Healthcare Fellowships will help workers pay off burdensome career-related debt while easing the State’s healthcare workforce shortages. This will provide opportunities so our healthcare graduates can focus on building their careers and caring for Rhode Islanders.”
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 FY24 budget expands the Wavemaker program to include teachers. The next application period will open in 2024.
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