This is the first of a series of guest posts by members of the AIA's NDSA Coalition. Stay tuned each week in June for more!
The mounting student debt facing recent architecture graduates has been a growing concern for the profession, just as it has been for the nation at large. Coupled with lower salaries than comparable professions and the higher than average debt load, a solution was needed. The National Design Services Act (NDSA) was borne of these concerns and taken up by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and AIA.
In 2011, AIAS President Nick Mancusi created a committee to research the issue, developing the data and arguments for the NDSA. The NDSA legislation is an opportunity for aspiring architects to provide design services in underserved communities and pay off their student loans in the process. This differs from other public service programs that relieve student debt such as the PSLF. Administered through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the NDSA takes it cues from programs that other professions such as law or medicine enjoy.
This idea came to fruition in 2012 with a jointly proposed draft by the AIA and AIAS under the administration of AIAS President Matthew Barstow. That draft, crafted by the AIA’s legislative team, was introduced at AIAS Grassroots 2013 by AIAS President Westin Conahan as the National Design Services Act. The AIAS relaunched the National Advocacy Committee to develop grassroots support and awareness for the bill that year. The bill, H.R. 4205, was sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) in the House of Representatives in 2013 with bipartisan supportIn 2015 the NDSA was again sponsored by Rep. Perlmutter and reintroduced to the House as H.R. 2938.
Over the last three years, the bill’s language continues to be refined to better reflect the needs of the profession. There have been letter writing campaigns, op-eds placed, call-ins, visits to the Hill and other advocacy efforts by AIA members, the AIAS leadership and concerned advocates throughout the profession. The newly formed NDSA Coalition, chaired by Korey White of the AIA’s National Associates Committee, was designed to develop and direct those efforts toward passing the NDSA and is composed of a growing list of diverse stakeholders.
This effort is continual and ongoing and we are actively seeking advocates in the profession, academia, and beyond to make this bill a reality. If you’re interested in getting involved and advocating for architects to have real and meaningful impact on their communities through design, get involved! Sign up for the AIA’s Legislative Action Network, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
With your help, we can make a difference through design.
Stephen Parker, AIA, LEED AP BD+C