Free Adobe software pilot program to cost campus $500,000

Adobe products in the Cal student store.
Tony Zhou/Staff
Adobe products in the Cal student store.

This fall, UC Berkeley will begin a year-long program for students that will allow them to download Adobe software packages for free as part of an agreement with the company that will cost the campus about $500,000.

Beginning Sept. 6, students will be able to download the Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium software — which includes programs such as InDesign and Flash — as part of a pilot program funded by the Operational Excellence Productivity Suite project, which aims to save on the cost of buying widely-used software.

However, should students wish to have access to the software beyond its pilot year, they will need to vote on whether to pay a fee through a spring student technology referendum.

Student government leaders will establish an undergraduate and graduate representative to track student reactions to the program throughout the year through meetings, forums and focus groups, according to Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab.

The campus began negotiating with the company in June for a reduced price on Adobe products — which normally cost $400 to $550 — after observing the success of a similar program at Indiana University, according to Tim Schulenburg, Adobe area manager for education.

“What the deal was successful at doing was leveraging the buying power of a large population to lower the cost of products,” he said. “It was a mutual investment — obviously UC Berkeley is an amazing university … and that reputation made it a great place to invest our resources.”

Instead of running a pilot program for faculty and staff, the campus negotiated to provide them with the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection — which includes additional video editing software — through a deal that the campus says will save money annually.

Providing the software to faculty and staff will result in an approximate $31,000 increase in current spending on software purchasing and licensing.

However, the mass purchase of the software — which will trim about 1,000 reimbursement transactions from information technology staff duties and reduce the cost of tracking licenses — will save over $60,000 each year, according to campus Strategic Technology Acquisition Manager David Willson.

While the campus’s deal with Adobe will negatively impact the sales of Adobe products at the Cal Student Store — the store may lose approximately $33,000 in software sales — Shelton Waggener, associate vice chancellor for information technology and chief information officer, said the agreement would positively affect the campus overall.

“The student leadership and Student Technology Council believe that the net benefit to students is essentially greater than the relatively minor reduction of sales from the student store,” he said.

Navab said in an email that she informed Cal Student Store Director Jeff Deutsch of the Adobe deal a few weeks ago. Deutsch declined to comment on the store’s loss in revenue.

According to Ryan Landis, chair of the ASUC Store Operations Board, the campus did not inform the store of the agreement in a timely manner.

“As one of our vendors, we would like the Student Store to succeed,” he said. “Informing the store of the Adobe agreement may have enabled the store to better serve the students.”

While campus chose to provide students only with the more basic — and cheaper — design premium software, Waggener said that the campus has additional licenses for the master collection for students. These will become available once the campus works with academic deans to establish which academic programs — such as journalism, art and environmental design — have the greatest need for more extensive video editing features.

According to last year’s editor in chief of the Cal Literature and Arts Magazine, Anna Reeser, the program will greatly benefit publications groups on campus and increase efficiency.

“More editors can participate in the hands-on layout process,” she said in an email. “Adobe programs are easiest to learn if you can play with them and learn by trial and error.”

The campus is looking into similar agreements with companies such as Microsoft for Office software but has not reached any final decisions yet because of considerations about security and access for the campus community, Waggener said.

“This is a new strategy for us, and it is delicate because some of the products may be popular with people but don’t meet critical things we need to accommodate for,” he said. “Everybody that has needs on campus we have to accommodate.”

Alisha Azevedo is the lead academics and administration reporter.