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Welcome to the AIA’s National Design Service Act Advocacy Tool Kit!

We understand that advocating on behalf of legislation can often seem like a daunting, labor intensive task that requires a lot of policy detail and an insider’s understanding of how the legislative process works.

The AIA has developed this tool kit to provide emerging professionals with a series of well-tested steps to support a legislative push.

This packet is meant to help you accomplish several goals:

    1) To be able to comfortably, publicly discuss the benefits of the National Design Services Act.

    2) To create a blueprint for advocating on behalf of this bill and other bills that are of importance to the architecture profession.

    3) To provide the resources and the procedures for contacting your Member of Congress to have discussions, set up meetings and further the dialogue.

    4) To help you develop a voice in architecture advocacy.

The Why

Why should architects and emerging professionals expend their energy and effort to lobby on behalf of this bill? That’s the easiest question there is.

Because this bill is for us.

The NDSA was specifically written for the architecture community to address one very serious and persistent issue: high student loan balances. Architecture students graduate with one of the highest balances of any profession. This bill pairs these design centers and the chance for emerging professionals to play a civic role in the direction of their communities in exchange for assistance with student loan balances.

It’s about time we find new, common-sense ways to foster the conditions that keep talent in the profession.

The NDSA can help.

This advocacy plan was developed to garner support for the National Design Services Act in Congress. This requires outlining clearly defined steps that will assist the AIA/AIAS push to have this bill sponsored by members in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

A Toolkit for Effective Advocacy

This page is designed as a 'toolkit' to help you be a strong advocate of the NDSA, future legislation and to promote the ideas that are essential to emerging professionals.

    • Reducing architecture student loan balances

    • Incentivizing young architects involvement in their local community

    • Furthering the civic engagement of the architecture profession

    • Developing healthier, sustainable communities

Along with serving informational purposes, this resource provides specific tools that will allow you to effectively advocate to policymakers, the public, and your peers.

These talking points, electronic materials, visual media, reports, and other materials are crafted to help you stay on message and comfortably explain why this bill is necessary and beneficial.

Background: So Why the NDSA?

Architecture students are graduating with decidedly high loan balances that, combined with the still recovering economy, are causing many graduates to either leave or consider leaving the profession, depriving the field and the country of the talent needed to design the next generation of great structures and communities.

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 architecture training. These costs included more than $1,000 annually on materials for models and project submissions and $800 on textbooks and technology, accounting for a total of $1,500 a year in additional accumulated debt.

According the AIAS, “the survey indicates that the primary concerns of architecture students are focused on the job market and the debt load that students are taking on to pursue their career choice. The research results indicate that architecture students have a higher than average amount of student debt”

Architecture school graduates consistently rate the enormous burden of high student loan balances as one of the most daunting obstacles to developing successful careers. It is crucial that not only architecture students, but the entire profession, get involved in the discussion over the impact of student loan funding and continue advocating for policies that keep architecture graduates active in the profession and enables them to serve their communities.

This is why the AIA and the AIAS launched a campaign in 2012 to urge Congress to include architecture school graduates in the same federal programs that offer other graduates loan debt assistance if they donate their services to their communities and elsewhere.

This program is not only beneficial to the profession, but makes a noticeable impact on the lives of emerging professionals and continues to develop architecture resources that build on all the work that has been done so far.

Talking Points

The FAQ page lists what we believe are the crucial selling points of this bill and explains why this bill is necessary for the architecture profession.

Bill Highlights:

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

    • 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 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    • 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.

    • Facilitate the development of relationships between emerging professionals and community stakeholders, project developers and related professionals.

    • 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 academia-based debt balances in this nation’s history.

    • 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. Now is a great opportunity for architects to utilize these same kinds of opportunities.

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 visually pleasing.

Community Design Centers/Community Impact

The NDSA specifically utilizes the resources and abilities of community design centers across the country.

The benefits of the NDSA on the local community are clear. In exchange for HUD providing student loan assistance to reduce the balances of participating students, they will contribute their design services through the administration of Community Design Centers.

Community Design Centers serve an essential function in executing the goals of the NDSA.

They provide:

    • Community/university partnerships for the research and design of infrastructure improvements which serve the university’s immediate region.

    • Provide assistance to community groups, non-profit organizations, and City departments that are representing underserved areas and underfunded projects. 

    • Further the objectives of local improvements by bringing professional design and planning assistance to community groups and non-profit organizations

    • Offer professional design and planning services to non-profit groups and agencies that lack resources.

    • Provide architectural and engineering services to community groups and nonprofit organizations early in the project development process.

    • Further community benefiting sustainable designs

    • Evaluate existing building conditions

    • Identify health, safety, and accessibility issues

This range of abilities is why the NDSA specifically utilizes community design centers as a conduit for student involvement in their neighborhoods. The benefits are clear. The region receives architecture services for considerably less than they would otherwise be available. The community design center receives an infusion of young, ambitious talent. The students are provided the opportunity to meet community stakeholders and are provided help with reducing the balance of student loans.

Bill Advocacy/Execution of a Congressional Meeting

An important aspect of advocating on behalf of legislation is meeting with elected officials and their staff. This requires setting meetings with members of Congress either in the member’s district or in Washington, D.C.

To ease this process, we have made it easy to figure out who your member of Congress is; which is the best starting point for a conversation on what is best for the overall community.

    Step 1) Locate your member of Congress.

    Step 2) Contact the Member’s office and ask to speak to the staffer who manages education issues.

    Step 3) Offer to send the staff a copy of the legislation as well as a copy of the NDSA: FAQ document.

    Step 4) Follow up the forwarding of materials with a request for a meeting to discuss the bill.

    Step 5) Email AIA National with a summary of who you’ve spoken to and your impressions of the interactions, for the Government Relations team to further the discussion.

We will use your effort to increase awareness and support for this legislation while using our abilities and resources to move the legislation forward.

Getting AIA/AIAS Members Involved

This advocacy effort should involve as many members of the profession as possible.

This means telling your friends and colleagues who are studying or practicing architecture that there is a great idea that we can help push forward with limited individual time, but great collective effort.

All the materials contained here can and should be shared. You can stay up to date on the latest news with the legislation on its federal issue brief page.

If we can create momentum for this bill, we are continuously increasing the chances of moving it forward.

Sample Text to encourage friends, colleagues and associates to advocate on behalf of the NDSA:

    Hi _________,

    The AIA is promoting great legislation that helps communities design and develop, provides an avenue for emerging professionals to contribute design services to their neighborhoods, and helps reduce the enormous student loan burden for architecture students and graduates nationwide.

    Help us move this bill forward.

    Contact your Member of Congress and tell them to take a look at the NDSA and the NDSA: FAQ page.

    With persistent effort and focused communication, we stand a great chance of furthering legislation that supports architecture students and creates opportunities for the future.

    Thanks for your help.


Help the profession advocate on behalf of the NDSA!

Share this message with friends, colleagues and associates.

Together we can support architecture policies that make a difference.

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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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