When College senior Yessenia Moreno arrived at Penn in 2012, she stopped by Penn’s Computer Connection to buy a new laptop. To her disappointment, the University did not provide Microsoft Office — a tool that is indispensable for succeeding in almost any class at Penn.
As a low-income student, she received financial aid, but her package did not cover the approximately $100 cost of Microsoft Office. The software provided an added burden to the already high expenses of any student’s first few months of college.
But by her sophomore year, Moreno had joined the Undergraduate Assembly, where she served on the Academic Affairs committee. In September of 2013, she introduced a proposal for a project — to make Microsoft Office free to all Penn undergraduates.
“It was something that caught my eye that was really important,” she said. “It’s something that I feel as Penn students we take for granted, but we use it all the time.”
Although some schools and classes provide subsidized or free technology for students — for example, Wharton students enjoy the benefit of free printing — Moreno said that none of the schools provided Microsoft Office for free when she introduced the initiative.
“It’s a very important thing to have,” she said. “It’s one less thing to worry about, one less thing to pay.”
Thanks to Moreno’s work, the Class of 2019 will not have to pay for Microsoft Office — all Penn students can acquire the software free through Campus Express.
College sophomore Nathaniel Rome, a current member of the Academic Affairs committee, said the UA was proud to have completed its project.
“This is a change that the Academic Affairs Committee has lobbied for in the past,” he said in an email. “We are pleased to see that that the administration is addressing this student need and we look forward to another productive year, working with the administration to improve the quality of life and education on campus.”
Office 365, the newest version of Microsoft software, was made available through an agreement between Penn and Microsoft, and includes cloud-based email, calendaring and the full Microsoft Office suite of applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access.
While students like Moreno have pushed the University to provide Microsoft Office to students, Jaron Rhodes, the Director of Communications at Penn Information Systems and Computing, explained that the project has been a priority for the administration as well.
“The University has fostered a long-standing desire to provide Microsoft Office products to our students at no cost,” he said in an email. “PennO365 represents a major collaboration success that will ultimately benefit students and the entire University.”
Moreno believes that this year’s freshmen will benefit most from the now-free software. “Particularly for the incoming class, it’s really cool,” she said. “It’s really exciting, and they’re really lucky.”
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