1. Who should apply for a Wavemaker Fellowship?
Professionals with higher education loan debt and who is employed, or has an offer of employment in Rhode Island with a private company, non-profit, or university in a STEM field is encouraged to apply.
2. What is considered a STEM field?
To qualify, your employment must primarily consist of work in one or more of the following covered fields: 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. Examples of qualifying occupations are listed here. Note, this is not an exhaustive list of eligible occupations. All occupations will be reviewed for eligibility requirements using information gathered during the application process.
3. What higher education student loan debt expenses are eligible for reimbursement?
Eligible expenses are annual higher education loan repayment expenses, including principal, interest and fees (excluding late fees or other penalties for late payment). For example, if your minimum monthly payment is $300, your eligible expenses would be $3,600 (12 months x $300). Payments you elect to make above the minimum amount due are not eligible.
4. How much am I eligible to receive annually?
The value of the tax credit is your annual eligible higher education loan repayment expenses 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 Master’s degree or higher, the cap on your award is $6,000
5. Can I apply if I am not a “recent” graduate?
Yes, if you work in a qualifying field at a company in RI, and have eligible higher education student loan debt expenses you may apply.
6. Can I apply if I'm self-employed?
Yes, just make sure to fill in the Employer Endorsement Form reflecting your employment status.
7. How does the tax credit work?
If you are chosen as a Wavemaker Fellow, you may use the tax credit to pay your Rhode Island income tax liability, or you may choose to get a full refund of your tax credit amount. You may do a combination of both, using a portion of the tax credit to reduce your taxes and then receiving a refund of the remaining portion. Note: refunds of the tax credit may be subject to federal income tax
8. What if my tax credit exceeds the amount of my annual Rhode Island tax liability?
You can get a refund of the excess, or you can carry the excess forward to be applied against future taxes for up to four years.
9. For how many years are the tax credits awarded?
Fellows are eligible to receive the tax credit for up to four years.
10. How long must I be in my current job to be eligible?
There is no minimum required amount of time spent at an employer. You can have an offer of employment, or a long tenure at your current employment.
11. When do I receive the award?
Once you are selected as a Fellow, you will begin a service period of 12 months. At the end of that 12-month period, you will receive documents to complete and return that provide evidence of your continued eligibility (remaining employed in Rhode Island in a STEM or design field and in good standing on your student loans). Once you are certified for your continued eligibility, you will receive a certification letter and a RI Division of Taxation form to fill out detailing the process to redeem the award.
12. What is the application process?
Every eligible application that includes all required responses and attachments will be reviewed by the Fellowship Committee. Applicants must complete the application in one sitting, so be sure to have all attachments prepared. These attachments can be found here. Once an application is submitted, the status of the application will reflect “submitted.” All applicants will be notified of the decision upon the conclusion of the review period.
13. Which attachments are required?
The following attachments are required for application review:
- Employer Endorsement Form
- Resume, including a listing of current employment
- Transcript(s) from post-secondary education
- Note: Transcripts do not need to be "official" transcripts, but must contain relevant information such as college/university name, student name, course work & grades, GPA, etc.
- Evidence of outstanding loans by amount and schedule. Please upload documentation for each qualifying student loan account that clearly shows the following:
- Account holder information (name, address, account number)
- Loan provider information
- Loan terms & payment schedule, including minimum required payment
- Total loan amount
- Interest rate
- Evidence of other loan repayment programs, if applicable (IBR letters, employer-run program agreement, etc.)
- See example loan documentation here. Note: not all example documents contain all required information; these images are simply meant to be a guide to help you identify the kinds of loan documents necessary for your application. Screenshots are not considered acceptable documentation
14. How are applications evaluated?
When evaluating applications, the Wavemaker Fellowship Committee gives priority to:
- Applicants who demonstrate the greatest value to RI’s advanced economy;
- Applicants who work in STEM or commercially relevant design roles critical to RI’s advanced economy (including, but not limited to sectors such as: biomedical innovation; IT, cyber and data analytics; defense, shipbuilding and maritime; advanced business services; design, food and custom manufacturing; arts, education and tourism; and/or distribution, transportation & logistics);
- Applicants for whom the award will play a substantial role of keeping them in RI;
- Applicants for whom the award would represent ‘last dollar funding’
15. Which sectors are considered critical to Rhode Island's advanced economy?
According to Rhode Island's strategy for economic development, these sectors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Biomedical Innovation
- IT, Cyber, and Data Analytics
- Defense, Shipbuilding, and Maritime
- Advanced Business Services
- Design, Food, and Custom Manufacturing
- Arts, Education & Tourism
- Distribution, Transportation & Logistics
16. How many awards will be granted?
Funding for the program is limited. The number of awards depends on the number of eligible applications and available funding.
Note that individuals related to, living with, or having business relationships with Commerce Corporation personnel are not eligible for the award – for the explanation of disqualifying relationships, click here.
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