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Microsoft gives Office to students whose teachers buy it

For years, Microsoft, Apple, and others have offered educational discounts to students. Now, Microsoft has gone significantly further, providing a free copy of Office to students whose schools license it for their faculty and staff.

The Student Advantage program essentially extends an Office 365 subscription to the student body. Beginning Dec. 1, any academic institution that licenses Office for staff and faculty can provide Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost, Microsoft announced at the Educause 2013 conference.

Until now, Microsoft has offered access to Office for both students and educators via its Office for Education plans, available in three tiers. A free, basic tier offers perks like 25GB of hosted SkyDrive storage, hosted email with a user-selected domain name, and other benefits that go a bit beyond what Microsoft offers via the Web for consumers—including Office Web Apps.

But only the paid A3 tiers and above offer desktop versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, Access, Lync, and OneNote; under that plan, students pay $2.50 per month per user, and faculty and staff pay $4.50 per user, per month. Students can also buy a four-year Office 365 University license for $79.99.

But Microsoft said that the new Student Advantage plan can be used with the A3 tier, essentially making the portion of the costs normally assessed to student licenses essentially free.

University savings; student proficiency

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said that there was no limit on the number of students who could be included under the Student Advantage plan.

That could mean significant savings for large universities. According to Wikipedia, for example, Pennsylvania State University employed 8,864 academic staff, serving a total of 96,562 students. Before Student Advantage, Penn State would pay $281,293 per month under the A3 license, assuming it didn’t negotiate a lower rate.  Under Student Advantage, it would pay just $39,888 per month, or a savings of $241,405 per month, or $2.9 million per year.

Over 110 million students, faculty, and staff use Office 365 Education, according to Anthony Salcito, the vice president of education for Microsoft. In a blog post, Salcito said that an IDC study of 14.6 million job postings had found that proficiency with Microsoft Office had ranked third among sought-after skills.

”In essence, students today need job-readiness skills, not job training,” Salcito wrote. “And the technology industry can and should play a very important role in rebooting education to address this shift. It is a remarkable time in the world of education. Learning is changing. From the Internet’s massively open content to the possibilities that global collaboration brings to every classroom, it’s clear that today’s students—the workforce of tomorrow—must be prepared for a shifting landscape. And that landscape is increasingly technologically driven.”

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