Getting prepared for the start of a new school year requires a significant monetary investment. Between purchasing a new laptop, buying supplies for your residence hall or on-campus apartment and ordering your textbooks, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the accruing costs. However, Fairfield’s Information Technology Services is seeking to make one back-to-school essential much more accessible this year.

ITS announced via email on Sept. 2 that Microsoft Office 365 is available to all Fairfield students to download for free. The version of Microsoft Office provides students with email, web access and mobile versions of traditional Microsoft programs, such as Word, Powerpoint and Excel, as well as the digital notetaking program OneNote and an online storage system called OneDrive.

However, Office 365 is a hosted productivity suite, says Marie Ernye, Director of Information Technology Support Services, which means that students can take advantage of the full features of the program through the web-based ‘cloud,’ or by downloading and installing the current version directly to their laptops.

Available to students for the first time this academic year, Ernye said that new license agreements with Microsoft allowed Fairfield and ITS to roll out the offer this year.

License agreements with Microsoft, which took place in the 2016 academic year, provided us the opportunity to offer Office 365, which includes the installation of Office on personal devices, to our students, faculty and staff at no cost,” Ernye explained. “Without these license agreements, the cost of providing these services would have been $50,000 a month for students alone.”

Despite the actions taken by ITS to secure and announce the program, some students seemed to be unaware of the offer.

Senior Genevieve Brewer said she hadn’t heard that Office was made available to students for free, despite Ernye saying that two emails were sent to students advertising the offer. “I already have my Office, so I wouldn’t be inclined to download it,” she said. “But if it was a new, updated version, then I would. I also missed seeing the email advertising it.”

Although Brewer missed the advertisements for the offer, Cara Walsh ’20 said that she first heard of the program on the Class of 2020 Facebook page, as well as through email.

When asked whether or not she downloaded the free Office, Walsh said, “I heard about the offer too late, I had already purchased Microsoft Office when I bought my laptop about a month before.”

However, Walsh did share that she thinks ITS did promote the offer well even though she heard about it too late. “I think ITS did a good job about getting the word out, I think it was just a little harder for me to hear about it soon enough as an incoming student,” she said. “But once it was out there, I did see it a lot on Facebook and my email.”

While students may have already purchased Office for their laptops or did not hear of the offer, Brewer thinks that students should take advantage of the free Office — especially freshmen. “I think if I was a freshman coming in and I didn’t have Microsoft Office — and I think a lot of them don’t — they would probably just use the Apple Pages [from MacBooks],” she said, a program she suggested professors generally dislike.

Walsh agreed, offering that the free download removes some of the stress that new students face when planning for college. “I think offering free Microsoft Office is great. I don’t think a college student could get by without having Microsoft Office, so it is really helpful to not have to worry about needing to buy the program separately.”

The free download of Microsoft Office 365 is available for both Mac and PC users, and instructions to install the suite can be found on the ITS Wiki Knowledgebase, available through the ITS page on the University website.

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