Don’t expect students to pay for expensive software

Adam Cherian, Columnist

Every college student has experienced paying unexpected fees related to their schooling. Orientation fees, parking and textbooks are all examples of the little things a student may not account for when considering education costs. For a number of majors, such as journalism, radio-television-film, engineering and more, expensive software is another unforeseen expense.

UT should work toward providing these programs for free, so all students are able to have equal access to classes and learning opportunities at UT.

It is often necessary to use specific programs in a student’s field of study. If a student plans to become a video editor, for example, they must be proficient in Adobe Premiere Pro, as it is an industry standard. However, Premiere Pro will cost someone a whopping $20.99 monthly. With a contract, that can amount to over $250 a year. 

UT provides certain software to every student. In an email statement, Veronica Trevino, the media manager for Financial and Administrative Services Communications, assured students that the Microsoft Office suite and other programs were available to them. Trevno also pointed out that software for courses is specific to departments. 

“As mentioned, specialty software like the Adobe suite or 3D animation are typically college/major specific and may be offered by a department,” Trevino said.

But they may not. 

Journalism junior Casey Ellis expressed how important having access to these softwares is for her work.

“Journalism’s very Adobe heavy. … You kind of really have to have (Adobe) Creative Cloud or depend on the computer labs,” Ellis said.

UT has attempted to make these programs more accessible with resources such as on-campus computer labs. Students are able to go to the computer labs and use the entirety of the Adobe suite for free. Despite these accommodations, there are multiple factors that can make this arrangement inaccessible based on income. 

For instance, the labs are open for a limited amount of time, so a working student will not have the same amount of time flexibility to take advantage of these labs. Taking into account the additional travel times for off-campus students, it becomes more clear that those who cannot afford software must go out of their way to use them.

Professors try to accommodate their students by showing alternative programs that are cheaper or free. However, losing out on learning industry-standard material can be a detriment to one’s education.

“There’s a number of things … that are at play when we’re trying to decide ‘Do we require a student to get a piece of software?’” said Jason Wehling, a lecturer in the school of journalism and media. “And the first thing I would definitely want to consider is if it is necessary for the student.”

Professors such as Ben Bays, a radio-television-film professor at UT, teeter this line. 

“I have to balance the whole sort of open source conversation, … versus a piece of software that costs money,” Bays said. “I always offer whatever the (free graphics and image manipulator) is for Photoshop.”

This is a problem that both students and professors grapple with. Teaching students the industry standard programs is important for future job prospects, but students may not be able to afford the prices, putting a stop to their education. 

UT should provide students with free software if it is going to be required in their courses. It is unfair to low income students to essentially exclude them from learning the specifics of programs that they will use in the future. If UT is committed to providing education with equal opportunity, then it is only fair to provide students with the tools they need to excel in their field.

Cherian is a journalism junior from Round Rock, Texas.