The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) represents the collective voice of architecture students across the U.S., and across the world through our international chapters and partnerships with comparable student associations in Europe, India, Australia, Africa, and South and Central America. AIAS members have expressed a desire to use their voice to make a difference, and to be more relevant. In response, the AIAS Board of Directors has initiated a standing Advocacy Task Force to examine and address contemporary issues facing students as they transition into practice.

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Studio Culture

In 2000, the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) established its first Task Force in the wake of tragedy. An architecture student driving home after two consecutive sleepless nights of work on a final project fell asleep at the wheel and collided head on with a truck. This studio related accident was just the latest in a series of instances of architecture students meeting their death because of sleep deprivation. The Task Force was charged with studying contemporary architectural education and the studio culture environment. By 2002, the task force had published The Redesign of Studio Culture, the organization’s first call to action. The report focused on the values of optimism, respect, sharing, engagement, and innovation, which were stated as the foundation for necessary change. The conversation culminated in the addition of a National Architectural Accreditation Board (NAAB) Condition for Accreditation focused on a programs demonstration of “providing a positive and respectful learning environment” encouraging the values outlined in the 2002 report.

The AIAS continues to analyze and evaluate the progress that has been made since its first studies. The organization and its collateral partners have amassed a wealth of knowledge on the topic of Studio Culture which will serve as the foundation for a series of critiques, publications, and think tanks analyzing the future evolution of the policy. Most importantly, the technological shift that has taken place in architectural education will play a vital role in discussing the learning environment at both a physical and digital scale.

National Design Services Act (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.