Students: Take advantage of free software

Michelle Marchante/Opinion Director

Microsoft’s program family, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is one of the most essential and useful programs ever created but it can also be expensive. Luckily, when it comes to computers, software or just technology in general, students can get a lot of discounts, deals and perks, especially if they take advantage of the free softwares FIU provides.

Purchasing the Home & Business package of Microsoft Office 2016, for example, would cost $229.99 with the Home & Student package costing $149.99 but if you log in to, students can access the latest version of all Microsoft programs including Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, OutLook, Access and Publisher for free through Microsoft’s cloud based service, Office 365.

Normally, a subscription service for Office 365 would start at a price range of $69.99 a year for individual use, with that price going up to $99.99 yearly for home — with optional monthly purchase plan options — so you can imagine how much money is saved in the long run by taking advantage of this free service.

According to José Lopez-Varela, the associate director of computer store operations at PantherTech, FIU was using the technology fee students pay every semester since 2008 to provide them access to Office, but now that they converted to Office 365 back in January, the service is completely free and is no longer using the tech fee to provide it.

“It’s a standard software for the business world so it’s a great thing for students to have and be able to use while they’re here and not have to pay for it because it is an expensive software,” Lopez-Varela said.

According to Lopez-Varela, even though PantherTech does their best to get the word out about this free service, from attending every orientation, displaying it in the store and using social media to promote it, word of mouth is the most effective way Panthers find out about this freebie.

It’s important to know though, he said, that this free service is only valid as long as you are a currently enrolled student and PantherTech makes sure students are aware of it.

“Once you graduate, it stops working,” Lopez-Varela said. “[W]e do a big campaign around graduation telling people that ‘it’s graduation time, come see us’ because there are things you are going to lose so we can try to help them replace or get while they’re still eligible for student pricing.”

While it’s recommended students act right before they graduate so they are still technically eligible for student pricing, students shouldn’t worry about losing complete access to their documents upon graduation or transfer as the service would just convert to “Read-Only.”

This means that until you purchase either the one-time-only download or the monthly subscription, you would be restricted to only see the documents you had previously created and would be unable to edit or create new ones.

Office 365 isn’t the only software freebie Panthers can take advantage of though, as PantherTech also began providing a virus protection software since the last term called LiveSafe. According to Lopez-Varela, unlike the Office 365 that only lets users use it in up to five different computers at a time, students have unlimited LiveSafe device downloads.

“[LiveSafe] is a $90 a year product that you get for free while you’re here,” Lopez-Varela said.

While Office 365 is provided for free to faculty, staff and students, he said, LiveSafe is currently available only for students.

“Faculty and staff can buy [a virus protection product] at a discounted price from our website but it’s not the LiveSafe product,” he said.

Another freebie students and faculty can take advantage of is the free website options Panthers are eligible for through the school’s IT Department. Under the Web Services section on, Panthers will find FIUnix and MyWeb under Web Creation Tools. FIUnix is a tool that allows faculty, staff and students to create their very own html-based website from scratch.

MyWeb, on the other hand, gives them access to a WordPress-powered website which has a user-friendly interface, pre-designed themes and plugins so no coding knowledge is required. Students, faculty and staff are only eligible for these website services as long as they are currently enrolled in FIU and upon graduating or leaving, they may lose anything they’ve posted.

As students, we naturally struggle between attending school and working so we’re always trying to find cheaper deals because of it, yet when the school offers us free, expensive software, we ignore it.

The free LiveSafe software, for example, which is still relatively new on our campus, is currently being used by 2,250 students, according to Lopez-Varela and we have a student body of almost 54,000.

While you’re free to select and purchase whatever product you wish, faculty, staff and students should take the time to find out what our school offers before they take out their wallet, you may find yourself not having to spend anything at all.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Image retrieved from PantherTech website.

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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