U cuts Microsoft Office student discount

Regents approved a new agreement with Microsoft last week that discontinues the software discount due to lack of use.

U cuts Microsoft Office student discount

Janice Bitters

Starting in July, the University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology  will charge students more for Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office Suite.

The Board of Regents approved a new agreement  with Microsoft in mid-June that no longer allows students to buy Microsoft Office for the discounted price of $40 through OIT

OIT will also no longer offer discounted Windows Operating System  upgrades.

Bernard Gulachek , OIT’s associate vice president, said the decision to end the discount was prompted by a decline in the number of students purchasing the products in recent years. The drop in sales was causing the University to lose money.

OIT sold more than 8,700   Microsoft Office licenses in fiscal year 2013, which ends this week. The numbers represent a drop of nearly 3,000 sales from a year ago . 

Since 2010, OIT has seen a 46 percent decrease in Microsoft Office Suite sales alone , but spent more than $780,000 on the Microsoft agreement last year, Gulachek said.

“Because the volume [of purchases] has gone down over the last several years, the cost per license has gone up,” he said. “It no longer makes any sense for the University to be spending these kinds of funds … when there isn’t the volume that there used to be.”

Gulachek said several factors have contributed to the decline in Microsoft sales at the University, including a growing market of free software alternatives and the fact that many students purchase computers before attending the University.

“That money could be more easily used towards something that is more important to students,” he said. “We can repurpose that money for the academic mission of the institution.”

University junior Adam Carlson  said he prefers Microsoft software to other alternatives, because it makes his classwork simpler.

“It’s easier to do what the teachers are doing,” he said.

Another factor in the sales decline, Gulachek said, is the growing use of Google applications  on campus, which can replace software for some students.

Sophomore John Prondzinski  said Google applications have come in handy for him — particularly Google Docs, which he uses for group projects.

“That kind of gives [Google applications] an advantage over the Microsoft products,” he said.

A new option for students

After learning OIT was discontinuing Microsoft Office Suite sales, the University Bookstores’  M Tech computer  stores have geared up to accommodate students who still want to buy the software.

Jim Kyle, M Tech’s buyer manager , said the store will now sell Microsoft Office 365  for $69.99. While the cost is higher than OIT’s, it’s still $10 less than Microsoft’s current price for students and educators.

“I decided we should try to get the students and faculty and staff the lowest possible price we can,” Kyle said.

The store is able to offer the discount because Kyle said M Tech bought the software in bulk this year.

Plans for a more ‘student-friendly’ agreement

The current agreemen t approved by the Regents says if another isn’t made, current students who have purchased the suite software from OIT would need to uninstall by July 2014 on the honor system.

Those who graduate by June 30, 2014, and have purchased a license from OIT would be allowed to keep their software indefinitely.

Computers purchased by the University won’t be impacted by the change, including those bought for faculty and staff use.

Gulachek said the University is working with Microsoft to create an agreement that would allow students to keep their software purchases regardless of their graduation status.

The current agreement is “a worst-case scenario,” he said.

“I have every confidence in the world that we will come to an agreement that is more student-friendly.”