(TNS) -- PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The state has selected 224 college graduates to receive personal income tax credits under the state's Wavemaker Fellowship program, which would defray their student loan debts totaling about $868,000 while the recipients work in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design jobs in Rhode Island.
Gov. Gina Raimondo and the R.I. Commerce Corporation on Monday announced the selection of Wavemaker recipients after the state received more than 325 applications. Last year, the state awarded tax credits totaling about $800,000 to 215 graduates after reviewing more than 300 applications.
This year's average annual tax credit is approximately $3,875 per student, but recipients earn varying amounts based on their education levels. Those with associate's degrees are eligible for up to $1,000 of credit each year, while those with postgraduate degrees are eligible for up to $6,000.
Graduates from Rhode Island institutions of higher learning who stay in-state for jobs in the selected fields or Rhode Islanders who have gone out of state for college but return to jobs in the Ocean State are eligible for the tax credits. This year, about 54 percent of Wavemaker recipients graduated from a Rhode Island institution, and 89 percent of them are Rhode Island residents who have taken jobs here after graduating, Commerce spokesman Brian Hodge said.
In 2015, the General Assembly appropriated $1.75 million to launch the program, which the Raimondo administration announced in her first proposed state budget. Last year, lawmakers added $3.5 million, and this year, they added another $800,000 to the program — less in each of the last two years than Raimondo had requested.
Recipients can get tax credits for a second year, but they must re-certify and prove they're still working in the Rhode Island jobs that qualified them for the credits, Commerce spokesman Matt Sheaff said. If this year's and last year's cohorts all re-certify, their tax credits in the second year would equal about the same as in the first year, Sheaff said.
The Commerce Corporation offered details about this year's winners: More than half hold a bachelor's degree; 45 percent have a master's degree or higher; and 2 percent have an associate's degree. They're working in the following fields: 26 percent in design, food and custom manufacturing industries; 19 percent in defense, shipbuilding and maritime; and 15 percent in information technology, cyber and data analytics.
©2017 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.