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Architecture Student Debt Relief

The financial challenges currently facing emerging professionals and the opportunities for young architects to help their communities have been the driving force behind the AIA/AIAS Student Loan Initiative launched in April 2012.

Architecture students presently are graduating with decidedly high loan balances that affect professional competitiveness in the short and long term. According to a 2012 AIAS survey, graduating architecture students carry a much higher amount of undergraduate student debt - $40,000 on average – than the national student loan debt average of $25,000. This causes many graduates to leave architecture programs, depriving the country of the professionals who will design and retrofit the next generation of buildings.

The goal of the program is to harness the energy of architecture students to advocate for policies that allow them to engage in pro bono design assistance in exchange for student loan assistance, as many other professions enjoy.

In addition, the AIA will provide resources to architecture students regarding existing loan relief programs through the creation of a dedicated student loan web-database that provides up-to-date information regarding the wide range of student aid programs available. This includes the programs that provide loan assistance for pro bono community projects and the state and federal loan assistance programs currently in existence. Having a one-stop-shop of student loan offerings will serve as an informational resource for those who are currently part of academic programs, or who are considering what assistance exists before program admission.

These initiatives are a part of a multi-faceted initiative to help students not only serve their communities, but to also increase their ability to advocate on behalf of their profession. Please check back for further additions to the webpage.

AIA/AIAS Policy Proposal for Student Debt Relief
The Current Student Loan Climate

A Strategy with a Track Record of Success

Recently Introduced Education Bills/112th Congress

Sample Legislation

Additional Resources

AIA/AIAS Policy Proposal for Student Debt Relief

With national student loan debt estimated between $870 billion and $1 trillion, and 27 percent of debt holders carrying a balance past due, post graduate debt has become a major issue for policymakers.

A recent poll conducted by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) of 600 architecture school graduates revealed the extent of the problem. Respondents had an average of $40,000 in accumulated debt after graduation, as well as many unexpected costs specific to their architectural training. These costs included more than $1,000 annually on materials for models and project submissions, $800 on text books and technology spending, accounting for a total of$1,500 a year in additional accumulated debt.

In a challenging economic climate where jobs for architecture graduates are scarce, there is a real danger that many graduates will leave the profession, potentially depriving the country of an entire generation of design professionals. It is crucial that not only architecture students, but the entire profession, get involved in the debate over student loan funding and continue advocating for policies that keep architecture graduates active in the profession and serving their communities.

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The Current Student Loan Climate

Student loan debt is currently a much discussed issue both for educational and long term fiscal reasons. The present discourse is ideal for advocating on behalf of debt relief incentives that provide a support for the growth and development of the young architects as well as for their local communities. The following recent news excerpts demonstrate the extent of student loan debt across every state and documented by many major newspapers in the country.

The Washington Post, April 7, 2012: Student Loans Saddle Both Kinds of Seniors: Graduates And Grandparents
Come graduation time next month, there will be grandparents — many with student loans themselves — sitting at the ceremonies for their grandchildren, who will leave college with their own education debt. Some in both groups will take those loans to their graves.

Atlanta Journal Constitution, April 3, 2012: Runaway Student Loan Debt Hurting Economic Recovery?
Student loan debt stands at $1 trillion and has surpassed credit card and auto loan debt in the United States, according to a story in the Associated Press.
That ominous news has some in the financial world concerned that student loan debt could be the next big ‘debt bomb’ to threaten the US economy’s recovery. Average student loan debt recently topped $25,000, up 25 percent in 10 years.

San Francisco Chronicle, 4/7/2012: Student loan debt may be next financial crisis
In her 20s, Connie Swain paid for a private vocational school to improve her computer skills, relying on student loans for tuition and expenses.
"I was young and didn't really have a sense of how to do things," said Swain, now 44. "I should have gone to community college. I didn't realize what I was getting myself into at the time."
The debt she accumulated, - about $13,000, down from $23,000 - has followed her for two decades.

CBS News, 4/4/12: Could $1T student loan debt derail U.S. recovery?
Student debt in the U.S. has topped $1 trillion - that's more than Americans owe on credit cards or car loans. Though it's not a financial crisis now, it could be if the level of student debt continues to mount as it is now, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

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A Strategy with a Track Record of Success

This policy advocacy program has been specifically created for the AIAS to account for the current political environment, fully considering the partisan divide and ongoing budget negotiations.

But similar campaigns have been conducted in the past. In 2003 for example the American Veterinary Medical Association worked towards these very same goals with the National Veterinary Medical Service Act (P.L. 108-161) which addressed veterinary students increasing debt ratio through loans. The bills’ mission stated:

    • NVMSA is a loan repayment program for veterinarians who practice in underserved areas. This loan repayment program is to be administered by the USDA.

    • The rapid escalation in average veterinary student debt, now exceeding $100,000, coupled with the worsening shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities, provided the original impetus for this Act.

There are several groups across a broad range of professions that specifically promote their student loan benefits:

The American Federation of Teachers
The Association of Medical Colleges
The American Bar Association
Peace Corps

Architecture students are as crucial to the growth of the U.S. economy as other professions, and the purpose of this program is to work towards securing similar benefits through a wide range of solutions.

Using similar considerations, the AIA’s policy approach will partner with the AIAS, utilizing their academic and civic energy not only to secure student loan assistance for the profession, but to build a comprehensive understanding of advocacy in the architecture community for students and emerging professionals.

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Recently Introduced Education Bills/112th Congress

Several bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress that address student debt and are either awaiting Committee or House Floor action. These bills have already attracted a measure of support and many of them have received dozens of co-sponsorship agreements.

Bill: H.R. 953 - Make College Affordable Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Ron Paul
Committee: Ways & Means
Co-sponsors: Timothy Johnson / (R)

Bill: H.R. 2028 - Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Cohen
Committee: House Judiciary
Co-sponsors: 36 / (D)

Bill: H.R. 2117 – Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act
Sponsor: Rep. Virginia Foxx
Committee: S. 1297 received and read by Senate Committee H.E.L.P.
Co-sponsors: 69 / (R)

Bill: H.R. 2410 – College Debt Swap Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Edophus Towns
Committee: Referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Training.
Co-sponsors: 9 / (D)

Bill: H.R. 2732 – Student and Opportunity Act of 2011
Sponsor: Rep. Timothy Bishop
Committee: Referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Training.
Co-sponsors: None

Bill: H.R. 3240 – Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act
Sponsor: Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Committee: Referred to the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Co-sponsors: 5 / Bipartisan

Bill: H.R. 3405 – Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act
Sponsor: Rep. Edolphus Towns
Committee: Referred to the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Co-sponsors: 21 / D

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Sample Legislation

Amends: H.R.****
Sponsor: Rep. ***** [District - **] (offered on */**/20**)

Amendment provides student loan assistance for architecture students who are working towards beneficial developments in their local communities through design, development and civic involvement.

An amendment numbered **** printed in House Report 112-*** to provide $***** for student loan assistance for architecture students, to aid in loan repayment, loan forgiveness and incentivize further educational development and achievement within the architecture community.

Amendment (***) offered by Rep. ***** (consideration: CR H***; text: CR H***)

This format for the AIAS legislative initiative is based on the basic formula for drafting an amendment that can be submitted to legislators to be considered for sponsorship agreements and possibly for submission as an amendment to a moving piece of legislation. The specific inclusions will be determined in collaboration with the AIAS to ensure that the primary concerns for architecture students are featured in the final draft.

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Additional Resources

As a continuation of April’s focus on emerging professionals, the AIA and AIAS will continue to develop the Student Loan Initiative with advocacy tools and resources for those in the architecture profession. The program will include:

    • A database of available architecture-specific student aid programs, both federal and state, that will be developed into an active resource for those in the profession

    • Policy tools to advance pending legislation that addresses the wide range of architecture student loan concerns and may be submitted to members of the legislature in the future

    • Resources to advance legislation that addresses the wide range of architecture student loan concerns and can be submitted to members of the legislature in the future

For more information on advocacy check out:
Issues & Advocacy Home

AIA’s Advocacy 365: Guide to Making Your Voice Heard Year Round

Public Advocacy: Sample Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor

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