Architecture, Advocacy, and the NDSA

As a first time blogger, I would like to give a little introduction. My name is Korey D. White. I recently graduated in December 2013 from University of Colorado Denver with a dual Masters of Architecture and Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. Before moving to Denver, I spent the majority of my life from a lovely little city called Quincy, IL. Most people have never heard of it. It is not near Chicago, but is near Hannibal, MO – the home of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. I attended the University of Illinois for my BSArch and graduated in 2011.  In 2005, I joined the AIAS University of Illinois chapter and was a pretty passive member. When I made the decision to attend the University of Colorado Denver, I knew this decision came with some risks. I did not know a single person living in Denver besides my mom’s college roommate. Through my small network at the time, I was connected to a peer who had attended U of I and then finished her masters at CU Denver as well. She urged me to join AIAS and become as involved as I possibly could. She claimed it would allow me to meet fellow students, architects and professionals.

I took this advice to heart. I soon became the President of AIAS UC-Denver, served a term on the AIA Colorado Board and was honored to speak at the AIA National Convention 2013 in Denver. It goes without saying that the opportunities within AIAS and its association with AIA have been incredible. But what has really grasped on and not released me is the opportunity to speak out and voice opinions on issues important to architectural students and architectural professionals.

This past year I have been a committee member of the AIAS National Advocacy Committee. If there is one thing I am passionate about, it is advocating on behalf of professional architects and the value of this profession. Our committee started out the fall semester with a bang, highlighting projects done by students around the country that advocated for architects. Around October, we were tasked with trying to create a guide for AIAS members to present to their fellow students and AIA chapters promoting a piece of legislation: The National Design Services Act (NDSA). The NDSA sets out to give architectural graduates what other professions have had access to for years: a loan repayment program provided graduates donate their architectural services in underserved communities. 

The AIAS released a survey in 2012 that showed graduating architecture students have a much higher amount of undergraduate debt ($40,000) than other undergraduate students ($25,000 on average). As EP’s, we know that school is expensive and there are a multitude of other hidden costs. I am even finding out there are more costs once you graduate: ARE study materials, ARE Exam registration fees, etc.

As most pieces of legislation, the NDSA has had a long history. It started as an idea and a way to provide graduates with an opportunity to work in a field that was minimally hiring. In April 2012, the AIA and AIAS called for Congress to pass this bipartisan legislation. I am proud to say that in March 2014, we officially received a sponsor. Our very own Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7) introduced the bill to the House Committee on Financial Services on March 11, 2014. It is now officially titled H.R.4205 within the 113th Congress. Being new to legislation in general, I did not initially realize that the H.R.XXXX were reused throughout different congresses. If you are interested in tracking this you can follow it here:

 The AIA states the NDSA will:

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

-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.

-Allow young architects to gain invaluable, real-world experience while helping their communities in a tangible way.

Architectural Education has given us the resources to create better communities through design. As a recent graduate, my excitement to put these talents to use is something of which should be taken advantage. Not only will it give already graduated architects an opportunity to pay off their loan debt, but also it will encourage future students of architecture that this is a profession worth their investment.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a few resources:

Petition to the House of Representatives:

The NDSA Bill:

AIA’s Legislative Advocacy toolkit:

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