American – The Price of Architecture

In the United States, around 40 million people currently have student debt. This is a population that is greater than that of many countries. Although, in the last 14 years, the average salary for young people has decreased by 10%, student debt has increaased by almost 500%. For most Americans, getting educated means having a relationship with banks that will last for years. But for young American architects the situation is even worse; The amount of schooling required to be able to practice professionally means taking on a debt that you may be paying for the rest of your life.


While the average debt of a US student is $ 29,400, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architecture Students, architecture students graduate with an average of $ 40,000 in loans. Not only does the profession require more time at school, the architecture school is also a notoriously expensive academic experience. On average, an architecture student pays $ 1,117 annually in materials, which after being used to make a model, are often discarded after exams (or in some cases, literally torn by a teacher). In addition, architecture students are expected to pay for software licenses, computers and, now, 3D printing.

In addition, the professional field of architecture often imposes additional burdens on its younger members, as if having to pay monthly bills for the rest of the foreseeable future was not oppressive enough. A common cliché of architecture students is that they have so much work that they have to sleep under their desks; they live and breathe their work. Meanwhile, students who are trained in other fields are encouraged to do part-time work to help alleviate their debt. Even medical students.

Some architectural firms can even apply for unpaid work, often in the form of ‘internships’. As with other forms of exploitation, this has become a cycle perpetuated with the presumption stance: “Since I did, they should also do it.” Today, student debt is nothing short of a crisis. The problem with this logic, beyond being cruel and petty, is that it is false. The problem is further complicated by unclear labor laws and the lack of effective regulation by architectural advisory councils. Student debt increases with enrollment, exceeding salary increases. Link that with the changes in the global economy and an increasing cost of living in general, and the current tension of the student debt contrasts with some decades ago. Today, it is nothing less than a crisis.

Unless the situation changes, the current state of the debt will inevitably have major repercussions in the field of American architecture, particularly in contrast to its counterparts in Europe, Canada and Asia, where education is usually much cheaper, if not completely free (for example, Germany recently made all education completely free, even for international students). In an increasingly globalized field, architects trained outside of the United States simply have less to lose by experimenting with less financially viable models. And experimentation is at the heart of architectural innovation.

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