According to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), students graduating with B.Arch. degrees leave school with an average of $42,300 in federal and private loans. Last month, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) introduced the National Design Services Act to alleviate some of the debt incurred by architecture students. This bipartisan legislation would assist architects with student loans in exchange for community service in underserved areas. Rep. Perlmutter spoke to about what the bill could do—not just in the architecture world, but in communities across the country.
How did you find support for this bill from your fellow congressmen?
When you enroll or file a bill like we have, you go and seek co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. This is one where listing co-sponsors is easy. I’ve seen similar pieces of legislation to assist the medical profession, the legal profession, and law enforcement, to help students who have accumulated a lot of student loans and other kinds of debt, to help them cover some of that debt by returning good works to the community. For doctors, it might be practicing medicine out in the rural parts of the state; for lawyers, it’s helping the public defender’s or district attorney’s office.
Architects should be able to bring ideas to our community development to help design public buildings, schools, hospitals, and to provide designs and ideas for energy-efficient or water-efficient types of projects—and also enable students to get some help with their student debt.
Why do you think a program like this doesn’t already exist?
It probably should’ve been in existence, and I don’t know why it isn’t in existence today, but it’s one that I’d like to see put into law and put into practice so we can attract smart young people into the profession. Because we need architecture professionals. We need new, fresh ideas.
I think this is a good bill that helps young men and women who want to take up the profession of architecture. And it’s a bill that will create jobs as young people are designing new spaces, new buildings, and new communities.
The short-term effects of the bill include communities receiving architectural services they might not otherwise be able to access, and students receiving debt relief. What do you see as the longer-term effects of the bill?
The long-term effects are bringing young people with great ideas into designing things that will be sustainable, efficient, and valuable for the communities that people enjoy living in. That’s what architects do. They build spaces for people to do business in or to live in, or to just be a member of a community. This gets young people helping, coming in with good ideas and great design. In addition, when architects are involved in a project, it means something new is happening and that means jobs.
Are there any architects that inspire you? Do you have a favorite architect?
My brother-in-law, Joe Levi [AIA], is an architect I admire. I also admire Philip Johnson, who was the architect for the Wells Fargo Center in Denver. And, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright.