Pro Bono Work in Exchange for Loan Relief?

Just as NPR reported yesterday that the Nation’s student loan debt has exceeded one trillion dollars, the American Institute of Architects () and the American Institute of Architecture Students () called for Congress to pass legislation that will allow architecture school graduates loan debt assistance through pro bono work. This news comes as both President Obama this past weekend and likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney yesterday urged Congress to head off a scheduled increase in student loan interest rates this July.

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Also on Tuesday, the AIAS released a survey of nearly 600 architecture school graduates showing that 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. AIAS members plan to visit Capitol Hill in July to lobby lawmakers on these issues.

“There are numerous opportunities for young talented architects to use their skills to help rebuild our nation’s communities,” said AIA President Jeff Potter, FAIA. “Yet, more and more young architects are leaving the profession because they cannot afford to remain; this brain-drain will have major implications for our communities and the construction industry in the years ahead.”

“The AIA and AIAS are not asking for a handout; rather, we want Congress to provide the ability of architecture graduates to use their talents in underserved communities in exchange for debt assistance, just as Congress has provided for doctors, lawyers, teachers and others,” said Potter.

The survey also revealed that architecture students tend to face a large amount of hidden costs that are not part of the listed tuition fees of a program. Most architecture students annually spend at least $1000 materials for models and project submissions, $800 for textbooks and $1500 for technology that is required to produce the expected work. Over the course of a four year Bachelor’s program, this amounts to an additional $13,200 in related school costs for most architecture students, with a six-year Master’s course of study leading to $19,800.

“The current trends in the pursuit of Architecture as a career, and the realities of the current economy and the anticipated progression of the recovery, demanded that the AIAS look at our members’ perception and expectations for the future,” said AIAS President Nick Mancusi, Associate AIA. “In order to remain relevant, our organization and the profession as a whole needs to be aware of the next generation’s concerns and offer information and resources to support those capable and willing citizens as they graduate and engage with their community.”

Reference: AIA, AIASNPR

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Pro Bono Work in Exchange for Loan Relief?" 25 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Jon Rozenbergs

    Great! As long as this means that firms don’t use it as an excuse to not pay recent graduates. We want to contribute to our society in more than one way, and that means making a living as well as putting to use what we’ve learned

  • Scott Lagstrom

    So what happens when a project or design goes awry and lawyers get involved? Will the AIA pay for legal fees?

    • Tony Nicastro

      This is about Federal Student Loans and how the AIA and AIAS are working together to pursue this initiative. Also it is a Federal Law that interns must be compensated for work. It is illegal to not pay recent grads. So in short, this is all good stuff. Thank you AIA and AIAS!

  • NM

    Jon: It is Illegal for any Architecture Firm to Not Pay Interns – It is Federal Law that Interns MUST be compensated.

    Scott: The Article is not about Pro Bono Work, it is a release stating that the AIAS and AIA are working together on a Federal Student Loan Initiative.

  • Jill Kostolanyi

    This article made my day!! I was on the verge of losing all hope and inspiration. I have been fighting the urge to be bitter due to the amount of debt I have from Architecture school. I have a Masters of Architecture degree and I still cannot find work at a firm, even in ND where the unemployment rate is around 2%. I have been researching loan forgiveness programs, and as the artcile points out-there are many but not for architecture students.