Image: GitHub

Many of the biggest names in IT provide free or heavily discounted access to software for students, in the hopes of converting them to paid customers after graduation. Students and educators, check out these available options.


GitHub’s offerings for student discounts are comprehensive, particularly because GitHub has partnered with other companies to create a one-stop resource for student programmers and designers. GitHub offers a Micro plan to students (it includes five free private repositories) for the duration of your time in university — the credit is applied as two years at registration.

In addition, the rest of the GitHub Student Developer Pack provides these offers from other companies:

  • Bitnami allows for the easy deployment and management of server applications (such as Joomla, OwnCloud, and over 100 others) in the cloud. The student pack allows for the deployment of three servers for up to a year for free.
  • A DigitalOcean credit for $100, which can be applied toward a cloud VPS.
  • A DNsimple bronze-level hosted DNS plan for two years.
  • A $25 credit to HackHands, a 24/7 programming help service.
  • .com domain registration for one year and SSL certificate from Namecheap.
  • The ability to send 15,000 emails per month to subscribers with SendGrid.
  • Waived transaction fees for the first $1,000 sent via Stripe.
  • Private software builds using Travis CI.

Note: GitHub’s validation process is slightly more involved than other organizations, so it may take a few weeks to receive the student pack.


Autodesk provides free student access to its software, which includes 3ds Max, Maya, and AutoCAD. Depending on the product, the resulting files may be watermarked as Student Edition.


Atlassian provides community classroom licenses for teachers and students to use on projects in a classroom setting. In the license application, users can request licenses for the JIRA bug tracker / project manager, the Confluence collaboration software, as well the Crowd single sign-on, the Bamboo release manager, and the web-based git manager Stash. Atlassian’s SourceTree desktop git frontend and HipChat group messaging software is free for everyone.

In addition, Atlassian offers unlimited Git and Mercurial repository hosting in BitBucket for free with a verified .edu email address.


Microsoft’s DreamSpark program offers downloads of current and prior versions of Visual Studio, Windows Server, and SQL Server.

The company also offers downloads of Windows Embedded, a customizable Windows for devices that need full compatibility with existing Windows programs. The client installation key only activates Windows for one year, making it substantially less useful than one might imagine.

DreamSpark Premium offers downloads of full Windows (7, 8.1, and 10), as well as Exchange Server, Lync Server (now Skype for Business), Project Server, and MS-DOS 6.22.

Student at institutions that have paid for the Microsoft Volume Licensing program are able to obtain Office 365 Education, which includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, though not all universities participate in this program.


Adobe does not provide free software licenses for students, but it is available at a significant discount. Adobe Creative Cloud is available for $19.99 per month, including Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator (among other programs), a ProSite portfolio website, and 20 GB of cloud storage. A cheaper bundle for photographers of only Photoshop and Lightroom is available for $9.99 per year.

There’s always open source

While free versions of software for students are certainly a good thing, open source programs will continue to be free even after graduating. Developing skills using a Linux distribution and programs that run on Linux, such as Blender or Darktable can show versatility.

What do you recommend?

Do you have a tip for discounted software for students? Did you use student access programs when you were in university? Share your experiences in the comments.

While these offers are valid at the time of this article’s publication, the individual programs available and the terms of the offers listed may vary.

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Free or discounted software licenses and cloud resources for students and educators