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Stretching Your Tech Dollar: Part 4- Academic, Institutional, and Volume Pricing

Mar 2 '12 Hardware & Networks, Purchasing, Software Comments Off

This is the third of a four part series on how to get the best tech for your needs at the best price. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Part 1- Figure Out What You Need, Part 2 -Find the Best Items for Your Needs or Part 3 Finding the Best Price from a Source You Can Trust.

Part 4- Academic, Institutional, and Volume Pricing
The other three posts in this series showed you a way to get the best prices with the fewest hassles on the tech items you need. For some items like software and hardware bought directly from the manufacturer, however, you might want to take an entirely different tact.

Academic institutions often get special pricing on select technology items. You might be familiar with academic pricing for software or computers available to staff and students at your campus bookstore or tech center. But academic departments can often get even better prices by taking advantage of volume pricing available from many manufacturers or software companies. If your institution has negotiated a campus-wide pricing agreement, these discounts can be huge. If they have already purchased a campus license for a particular software title or service, you might even be able to get it for free!

Candidates for Discounts

Some items are particularly good candidates for obtaining these academic, institutional, and volume discounts.

  • The biggest discounts are usually available for software. Many companies, including Microsoft and Adobe, offer substantial academic discounts and even better volume pricing. Many campuses have already negotiated very favorable prices or even purchased site licenses for some products. This is definitely one area where you shouldn’t pay anything close to full retail prices.
  • Hardware manufacturers like Apple, Dell, and HP sometimes offer substantial discounts on items like computers, monitors, and printers to academic customers. Often, however, you can find equivalent or better items cheaper through different channels, so don’t just assume that these are the best deals.
  • Instructional tools and items used in the classroom like audience response systems (clickers), projectors, and interactive whiteboards can often be found at very good prices though academic channels.
  • Finally, if you are looking for online services, you should inquire if your institution can help. Several college systems, for example, have contracted with online learning companies like Blackboard to make their services available to all their departments. Even if your institution doesn’t have such an agreement, you can often take advantage of academic pricing on your own.

Academic and Volume Software Licenses
Typically, there are at least three relevant types of licenses for software:

  • Retail pricing for the general public. Pay this as a last resort for software that you can’t buy any other way.
  • Academic pricing available to departments, students and staff at campus bookstores and tech centers. This can sometimes be a good deal, especially when you only need one copy or you need the software now.
  • Institutional/volume pricing available to departments on a university campus. This is almost always the best price, but may take a while and require a minimum purchase. Try and take advantage of institution-wide prices if you can. If your institution has purchased a site license for this software, you may be able to install it on institution-owned computers for free!

There are a few other things to consider when purchasing software that can save you time and money.

  • You know those long and less than thrilling software license terms that everyone is supposed to read before installing software, but no one ever does? There’s one section that might be worth your time. You may be surprised to know that you can install a lot of software on a second portable or home computer without buying a second copy as long as the two copies are used by the same person but at different times! Next time you install software, find that section of the license agreement and see what’s allowed. Sometimes there are additional restrictions on educational or volume licensed software, but use of a second copy is often permitted as long as it’s for non-commercial use. Definitely worth a quick look at the license terms!
  • One other huge advantage of volume licensing is that you can purchase a software maintenance plan. For a fraction of the cost of purchasing the software (often about a fifth), you can receive all updates and upgrades as they are released and often get access to premium support. If you renew this maintenance (usually annually) you will never have to buy the full product again. This can lead to huge savings, and is an option only available to volume purchasers.
  • It’s important to know that when you buy software though a volume purchase, you usually purchase just the number of software licenses you need and usually have to buy or download the actual programs and documentation.

Taking Advantage of Academic, Volume, and Institutional Prices
Every institution is structured differently, so the easiest way to get started is to ask your colleagues. Talk to your tech folks or classroom support services or contact your bookstore or tech center. They probably get this question a lot and may well even have a website set up with the links and information you need. You can also talk to other people who have done what you want to do. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to outfit your classroom or computer lab or start using new online services.

If none of these avenues pan out, try and find educational volume pricing information on the company website or contact them directly. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!

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