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The National Design Services Act (NDSA) – Frequently Asked Questions



Why do we need a student loan bill?

Because architecture students have higher debt balances than other graduates. It’s that simple. In a still recovering economy, according to a 2012 AIAS survey, graduating architecture students carry much higher undergraduate student debt - $40,000 on average.

The AIA and AIAS are always looking for ways to help the next generation of design professionals and addressing one of the primary financial obstacles they face in beginning their careers seemed like the perfect start.

What exactly is the National Design Services Act?

The NDSA is an architecture student loan bill. It was written to encourage present and recently graduated architecture students to contribute design services in their local neighborhoods in exchange for student loan assistance.

The bill aims to accomplish several goals:

    • Encourage young architects to play a larger role in the design direction of their community and to increase engagement with rebuilding and constructing for the future.

    • Help underperforming and underutilized communities revitalize through an infusion of new project ideas from the next generation of skilled design pros.

    • Support student loan aid for the graduating classes of young professionals who are burdened by some of the highest school-based debt balances in this nation’s history.

How does it work?

The NDSA works through the use of designated community design centers. Architecture students will contribute a specified time period of work over the course of several days, weeks or months and in exchange will receive federal aid to reduce the students’ loan balance.

The Federal government has always encouraged student loan aid for programs that have a positive impact on regions across the country, as medical, legal and even veterinary students have had bills written to encourage the contribution of their work to underserved areas.

Architecture students and post graduates can provide design work that is enormously helpful in assisting communities recover, beautify as well as devise new structures that are functional and aesthetically pleasing.

How can you help?

For this bill to advance it’s going to need a few things.

    1. First and most importantly, a strong base of support. The NDSA will be presented to members of Congress as a great low cost tool to improve communities by utilizing the enthusiasm and skill of young architects. The best way to build momentum is by informing the architecture community, both emerging and established, of what this bill can do and why it is good for the profession.

    2. The second step is to encourage our members to contact their member of Congress to alert them that this bill exists, addresses a genuine community need, provides much greater services than the programs’ cost and will be one of the items we will be discussing at the upcoming Grassroots for both the AIA and the AIAS.

Additional materials on this bill including articles and social media support are located here.

For more information, contact Shervan Sebastian at or (202) 626-7599.

Back to the NDSA Advocacy Toolkit Main Page

This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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