Karen Hellyer
Digital Arts Teacher

Justifying Annual Cost of CC / Benefits to School

Greetings! I'm finally getting our school to switch from our perpetual, 500-seat site license of CS6 Master Collection to CC. Our budget admin is weighing the pros and cons of continuing to provide access to all Adobe products for all students, staff and faculty, due to the increase in cost. Our Ed Tech director is trying to negotiate with Adobe Education about this, but communication has been spotty.

We are a 1-to-1 laptop school with a Mac Lab for digital arts classes in electronic music production, video, photo, animation and publication arts. Without access to CC on their PCs, students in those classes are limited to working only during class time and after school. Additionally, other students do use Adobe products provided on their PCs for other classes.

I'm wondering how your school does it. What's possible? Is it necessary for kids to use Photoshop, or is there a free product that students can use instead? (Yes, that's a question I was asked. How would you respond???)


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  • Adobe Premiere Pro

    Edit media in its native format and create productions for film, TV, and web.

  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

  • After Effects

    Create motion graphics and visual effects for film, TV, video, and web.

  • Bridge

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  • InDesign

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  • Lightroom Classic

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Comments (47)

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Rick Henderson

Posted on 6/22/18 1:12:24 AM Permalink

It really depends on what you are trying to teach. If you are college focused on having students learn real-world software that will be used in industry, then I can see it making sense to stay with Adobe. GIMP is extremely powerful but learning the ins-and-outs can be tricky, but it essentially does the things that Photoshop does but maybe just not as easily as the new CC versions.

This approach allows instructors to focus on transferable skills and concepts at the risk of having a transition to Adobe products go "not as smoothly".

As an example, I had started a tshirt design business just before I began my Adobe Education Trainer course last year. I got CC for the purpose of the course, but when doing some designs in Illustrator I found that it was just easier to do the work in Inkscape because I already knew how to use the tool. However, my designs currently aren't as complex as others might make.

For video editing, I just came across using OBS (Open Broadcaster Studio) for recording screencasts and a product called Shotcut for Camtasia-like video editing for $0.

Barbara Swanner, AET

Posted on 6/22/18 2:02:05 AM Permalink

​With the new pricing CC has become so affordable it should be an easy sell to your Administration, even if not all students are college bound if they learn how to use industry standard software they can find work after high school, that may pay the same as clerking in a grocery but with more upside potential. I have found it is difficult to get students that aren’t using Adbobe but paint (not Painter) and gimp, and pencil to convert, we all like what we know but the paying jobs are with the known names. I’ve had lots of kids in high school and College pick up side jobs because they could use what they learned in school. The entry level IT and Design world is still less about college and more about software skills and creativity. Here in Atlanta there are frequently entry level jobs looking for Photoshop, illustrator, indesign or premiere skills, no degree.

At $5 per student even most students can almost pay for this. Being a private school we are small so we will be eating a few of the licenses, but everyone will have access, and the mobile apps are sweet for quick editing and can connect to the cloud. You can tell I’m a fan, I used Photoshop Elements from the beginning to version 10, then we got just one small lab of cc, next year the whole school, I’m excited. But I do have to say regardless of the tools it’s the teaching of creativity and problem solving that counts, even with just PE my students made a name for themselves in the local photo arena. My kids would tell you my favorite saying when we didn’t have a tool was “Get online and find a work around” happened a lot in the beginning years especially.

Barbara Swanner, AET

Posted on 6/20/18 12:24:08 PM Permalink

We currently have limited access to C.C. When I saw the new pricing I proposed to the Principal and curriculum coordinator that we move to this if we could. All our students bring their own computers. They accepted my proposal so we will be moving forward, I hope this goes smoothly. We are a smalll private school so it is huge for us to buy 500 licenses, the minimum purchase, but everyone will have C.C., which is great.​

Cindy Kringelis

Posted on 6/20/18 2:05:38 PM Permalink

Thanks for that detail about the 500 license minimum purchase. And congrats on getting approval! So exciting!​

Barbara Swanner, AET

Posted on 6/22/18 2:04:52 AM Permalink

​I’m thrilled, now all my AP students will learn how to edit photos for their portfolios and create online portfolios. Instead of ppt or slides for presentations they will get to use Voice and Spark, so much cooler.

Cindy Kringelis

Posted on 5/7/18 12:29:21 AM Permalink

​Hi Karen -

Did you see the new pricing for schools?

$5/year school pricing

Seems like the business case just got a lot easier....


Stephanie Baier

Posted on 5/18/18 1:44:40 PM Permalink

Thanks for posting this link! My admin is researching a purchase of Creative Cloud for our district because of the new pricing.​

Cindy Kringelis

Posted on 5/22/18 3:52:33 PM Permalink

Good to hear!​

Jeff O'Brien

Posted on 6/13/18 3:47:00 PM Permalink

If Multiple students use a computer under a different name is it 5 dollars per computer or 5 per user. Also, how do the techs manage these accounts? Or do the students have to do that? ​


Posted on 6/15/18 2:10:40 PM Permalink

There are 2 options for K12 schools/districts. Named subscriptions - which are tied to a specific user. Then there are Device subscriptions which are tied to a specific device and anyone that accesses the computer has access to the software. Only problem is that if you have Device licenses and someone with and Adobe ID uses their credentials to sign in, the license will break.

Jeff O'Brien

Posted on 6/20/18 2:29:23 PM Permalink

Thanks for the information. This is great.

Alexandra Smith

Posted on 6/22/18 10:39:04 PM Permalink

We have device licenses in our labs and I haven't had any problems with my license breaking when students (or myself) signing in with an individual license. Then again I log out and/or shut down whenever I leave that lab and go back to my office or home and use my individual licensed copies (my individual license allows 2 downloads) and there is never anyone else using the software under my license when I do this.

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 6/20/18 6:41:04 PM Permalink

Hi Cindy, yes, very happy and excited about the switch! I guess I should update my post??? Thanks!​

Alexandra Smith

Posted on 6/22/18 10:50:10 PM Permalink

Still doesn't help us.

I teach at a small community college with only around 50 seats. We had to upgrade our lab to CC around 3 years ago partly because we are a vocational program and our students needed to know the latest version, but also because increasingly our students were using their own machines (licenses) at home and I was having problems grading assignments.

Even after negotiating a lower cost than the $300 mentioned in the article, switching to CC has tripled our software costs. We can't require students to get an individual license because we have a lot of students from other departments that only take one class and to make them pay $240 for something they may only use 3-4 months would kill our enrollment numbers.

Dan Ross

Posted on 4/26/18 5:02:31 PM Permalink

At the private college level, we made the text books optional and the CC subscription mandatory. I know this isn't the best direction in all cases. Software books are out dated too quickly and newer information can be found online.

Spencer L Lewis

Posted on 4/11/18 10:49:48 PM Permalink

Hmmm, been a log time since I was in school​ and need to go back and view today's curriculums. Butr with budget pressures I will assmme that unless the courses have some learning for all, it will ge denied with the typical "We have no money." excuse.

Tony Martinez-Malo

Posted on 4/5/18 7:28:10 PM Permalink

I was one of the first classes in our county to have the suite. I know that it was very costly, but for just one classroom it was easier to manage. Now that we have the entire county on board, our CTE programs at every school have Adobe CC. They were able to negotiate with Adobe. The license is managed at the district level, it causes some issues, but at the very least all of our computers have it.​

Justin King

Posted on 1/30/18 10:01:31 PM Permalink

i hate to say that there is no justifying CC vs CS6. stay where you are and use that budget for some other enrichment opportunities for the kids. ​the skills in CS6 are transferrable (until they hide the eraser in some tool drop down). other alternatives are worth looking at such as affinity photo, and affinity designer. adobe really need to get their plans setup in such a way that it makes sense to switch. right now, it does not, at least imho.

Mitchell Ravitz

Posted on 12/21/17 5:34:23 PM Permalink

​Frankly it is almost impossible to justify moving from CS-6 to CC for any public school. If you are teaching each applications tools, basic uses, and adding some depth by providing projects for the students, you can keep them very busy in CS-6. All of these basics are transferable to CC (for the most part). Adobe should make a special case for public education and provide a per seat license (including teachers) for CC. (I attempted to get them to change about 3 years ago and it almost happened, except the business office didn't move fast enough.)

Adobe can have a true advantage here over its competitors (basically Corel , Serif, and a few others) by getting all the learners comfortable with their tools while they are most open to learning them. While the competitors products are very good, you tend to go with whom you are most comfortable with. By training more students in Adobe products the stream into the workplace will naturally gravitate to CC. AutoDesk is already tuned into this idea and it has true value for them.

Just my 2 cents.

Rob Fitzgerald

Posted on 12/3/17 12:51:52 PM Permalink

We now have a site license for over ~200 computers running Adobe CC. We had another school in our district, finally convince someone that they needed CC. So we piggybacked on that subscription. We now want to use new apps (XD) and get updates to the old ones but the district password to CC becomes an issue. I did figure a work around. But, I guess I shouldn't complain after reading some of the posts on here.

My next problem is online software. Adobe has terrific online software for portfolio items and Web design, (i.e. Spark, Behance, Portfolio). I would really want my students to use these, however, without a CC account I don't think that they are accessible.

I have a Mac lab (2009) and my district seems to be moving away from Apple. So even though I have it pretty good, there is concern moving forward.

Stephen Horvath

Posted on 12/4/17 12:53:33 PM Permalink

They will need to create a CC account, but the good news is that they are free! I made the students base the CC account on their school username and password so it was easy to remember.

Just make sure your school whitelists the apps. My school didn't and it was kicking the students out until I said something about it.

Emmalee Pearson

Posted on 11/29/17 8:26:07 AM Permalink

​My program (Visual Communications at Madison Area Technical College), among similar ones in the school, use Mac labs in our classrooms that are equipped with CC. We consider access to those computers and programs to be part of their tuition. Updates cause trouble - as our tech services team is never sure to keep older versions or wipe them clean.

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 11/29/17 7:26:15 PM Permalink

Emmalee, I feel your pain! Especially since the newer versions of Premiere Pro and After Effects create projects that aren't backwards compatible with older versions. This has been a problem for several of my students who have worked on projects at home with newer versions of CC, then realized they couldn't open them at school in the lab or their laptops because we have the older version. This is certainly an challenge with subscription based Adobe software.​

Alexandra Smith

Posted on 6/22/18 10:53:20 PM Permalink

I always tell my students at the beginning of the semester that unless there is a major bug that we will not run any of the updates until between semesters.

Audrey Wrobel

Posted on 11/19/17 2:30:12 AM Permalink

There is GIMP, which is free, but it doesn't have the bells and whistles that Photoshop has. Even if you have Photoshop, it isn't a bad idea to try out GIMP, too. ​

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 11/21/17 12:31:28 AM Permalink

Thanks, Audrey. Good point! I'm also starting to look at other free alternatives to Adobe software. For example, Avid has made a simple version of Media Composer called Media Composer | First, a free video-editing software package, available as a download from their site.

BTW, I find it disheartening that the licensing of Adobe Software to schools is going through another change soon. From what I've heard (please, correct me if I'm wrong) the cost will be based on the number of user accounts rather than the fte of employees, which is how it is currently licensed and made affordable to us.

Stephen Horvath

Posted on 11/15/17 3:36:09 PM Permalink

My superintendent just made a connection that may help us to build our program by justifying it to the bean counters. We met yesterday with the president of our county's chamber of commerce. They would like to bring the chamber into the 21st century with a larger video presence. We're only at the beginning of the process, but it looks like we will be essentially providing interns to the chamber and increasing their presence on the web. We are going to record a monthly video address from the chamber to its members. The really exciting project is a monthly business of the month video where we will visit the business, develop a script, and shoot and edit a 2-3 minute video highlighting the business.​ The interpersonal and real-world skills required are incredible. There will also be opportunities for graphic design, sales and public relations.

We're hoping that this will become a revenue stream with donations. The goal is to build a television studio and live truck and eventually, if all goes well, the program will pay for itself in student experience and community connections. Also, it will justify two-full time positions, as my co-adviser and myself currently teach other classes throughout our day and want to focus on... well... anything Adobe!

susan lamson

Posted on 11/15/17 2:12:27 PM Permalink

​I feel the frustration! I am a high school Digital Media and Graphic Design teacher trying to keep my program viable as my lab becomes more and more obsolete every year. What started as one of the most innovative programs in my county, is what I would consider inadequate. I am running CS3 and using almost solely Illustrator and Photoshop, as well as Corel Painter X. (I used to teach Flash and Bryce 7, but I am no longer able to do so due to loss of the program (Flash) and the graphics cards and processors in my current computers being sub standard.)

I would love to be able to give my students access to a newer program version than CS3, but students pay a fee of 30 per year for everything we use, including ink and equipment. My students do AMAZING work with the programs we do have, and I am very proud of them, but I fear that I am not doing my best preparing them to become future graphic designers while using outdated software.

steve hunts

Posted on 11/14/17 7:52:42 PM Permalink

​This is very frustrating here at the university I work at as well. They are talking about cutting back on our Adobe license even further than the current bare bones apps they subscribe to. To further complicate matters they have installed a Virtual Desktop on all computer lab computers which is not playing nice with the Adobe desktop programs. I do workshops for students, faculty, and staff here and now rely heavily on the mobile apps. We have 2 iPad carts that I have loaded with Adobe mobile apps for my workshops. They can be borrowed by anyone with a campus ID. Unfortunately, the cost of iPads has now become an issue here and so I remain in limbo regarding my ability to teach anything Adobe in the future.

Stephen Horvath

Posted on 10/24/17 11:55:44 AM Permalink

​We need Adobe products for our publications program, but to justify the cost we have tried to offer other courses to the general population, such as web design or computer animation. Our thought was that it would make the program more valuable. Oddly, my school shot this proposal down last year, and has only tentatively approved a web design course for next year at this point. With so many tech careers out there, and the possibility of aligning to the ACA curriculum, adding these classes just makes sense.

On the licensing question, I admit I'm at a loss. I just updated my MacBook to CC2018 and all of my apps changed to trial versions! My tech department is just kind of scratching their heads, but in three days I won't be able to use any of my Adobe stuff...

Alastair Bartlett

Posted on 9/17/17 3:44:32 PM Permalink

​Looks like they are changing the CC education licensing (in the UK anyway). IT told us it's going to be priced per machine again. I've also noticed that my personal subscription is £10 a month more than they are charging new members!

Rebecca DeWeese

Posted on 6/6/17 9:50:22 PM Permalink

We are having similar issues. We purchased licenses for computers in the lab at our school, but I am often there at lunch and after school because the students do not have access at home. I would love to know if anyone has a solution to this issue. I have even had students who purchased at home because they wanted more access, but then they cannot open it at school because our version has not been updated and theirs is new.

Sinoxolo Jaca

Posted on 5/9/17 10:11:28 AM Permalink

​Hello everyone, am a beginner and i have difficulties in Adobe Premiere Pro 2014, anyone who can assist me?

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 4/13/17 5:05:53 PM Permalink

​Hi Steve,

Good ideas for schools who go with yearbook publishing companies. I did yearbook as a class and we worked with a small, local printer, so that wasn't an option. However, we did go through SHI to get a great deal on Adobe CC for all of the school-owned machines.

Steve Mann

Posted on 4/12/17 6:48:33 PM Permalink

​This is not an exact reply to your question, but food for thought...

I previously worked for a yearbook publishing company. Some of the schools we worked with had either no budget for software or very small budget, and simply could not afford Adobe applications. At a lot of these schools, part of the contract for the yearbook was to provide "X" number of copies of Adobe software, or a specific amount towards site license etc... all based on the number of yearbooks sold.

The company I worked for would simply include the cost in the yearbook price. So a $40 yearbook became $75 etc.

It was a win-win. The teachers were motivated to get kids to buy yearbooks (because it got the needed software), the kids also wanted the software so they got mom and dad to buy the yearbook... and the company I worked for sold more yearbooks.

We purchased the software for the schools through SHI (I agree I don't know how they sell for less that Adobe - maybe Adobe owns them?).

So don't be afraid to at least ask your yearbook rep about software or discounts on software...

Neil Smithson

Posted on 3/3/17 9:53:37 AM Permalink

​One thing I can't help but think is, why do Adobe Train the Trainers, who are effectively teaching/preaching the virtues of Adobe and the software not get a free CC licence?

Jennifer Cochran

Posted on 1/8/17 7:11:07 PM Permalink

​In our district it goes school by school. The school must fund any programs they use on computers. This year I received a grant for 9 computers to have CC. Our program is small but it would have been nice to have more. (16) There is all this STEM talk but no support from the district in individual school. A little discouraging.


Posted on 6/28/17 4:40:00 PM Permalink

You may want to look into the K-12 Site license through the Adobe VIP program. Your reseller should be able to assist with pricing but should be less than $30 a computer.

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 4/26/16 2:38:26 PM Permalink

Good news. Through SHI, we were able to obtain a license for every school-owned machine. The annual price is based on the number of FTE, not the number of students. This makes it VERY affordable. I'm not sure how they do it, or why Adobe doesn't offer it this way, but we're happy to be able to offer it to all of our students, any time they need it.

Heidi Edwards

Posted on 4/26/16 4:12:36 AM Permalink

Our school has been using CC for about a year or so now. Every student has access to it on any school laptop and desktop. I guess one argument against your current model of access it that it is not universal. Only students who have the time after school, or are enrolled in a subject such as technology and design can use it. Having broad access means that other subjects can use it seamlessly it at any stage of their program. Other aspects of our school community use the subscription as well, Our marketing department are able to produce fliers and posters in house, and here in the library we use it to create visually appealing posters and elements to go on our web opac.

giovanna iannicelli

Posted on 3/21/16 9:49:14 AM Permalink

Hi we have just made the switch. It has made such a difference as we now have access to software that is part of the CC suite which we did not have under CS6 (due to our licensing). Industry standard software which our students are using.

Scott Winland

Posted on 3/2/16 6:39:04 AM Permalink

Our developing media program is soon to make take the plunge into CC as well. I'm also curious as to how this is working out for everyone. Are the individual students responsible for purchasing cloud subscriptions (as they would for text books?) or are your schools buying a set number of subscriptions per lab, per year? Thanks.

Bertha Kirschten

Posted on 2/28/16 9:50:15 PM Permalink

Hi Karen

We are switching to CC this fall. I thought that there were some pretty good discounts through Adobe Education -- something in the $30 per student range when buying large volumes of licensing?? We are going with device licensing in our school because we are a small school.

I believe that the big advantage of going with CC is that we are teaching students on current industry standard software and the software updates are available immediately without having to purchase new box sets of the software. I am a CTE teacher and part of my requirements to keep state funding is to verify that we are using industry standard software. If I was still using CS3 (that is where we are jumping from to CC) I can't in good faith say that I am teaching to current industry standards. We are trying to prepare our students for college or the work force, so when we send them out to the work force and they have been trained on old versions of software, they are not ready for the job. An example is the recent upgrade in Muse that allows for responsive web design - responsive web design wasn't even in the picture when previous versions of the software came out and now it is the big movement in web design. If we aren't using current products, we can't teach students what is happening in the field.

Adobe has released some amazing free apps for iPad that work as stand-a-lones or in conjunction with the full software apps. Students can do quite a bit with them in reality, but they are not going to be able to do the powerful things they can with the desktop apps. My students are currently playing with these apps - and what I find them very useful for is editing photos, etc to use in their Voice or Slate presentations. They can take pictures on the fly with their iPads, edit them and insert them directly into their presentations - all on one platform.

Yes there are a few free apps out there that are pretty amazing - one that I have used recently is Pixlr - online photo editor very comparable with Photoshop and it does play well with Google (we are also a Google school with one-to-one Chromebooks). The ability to use Pixlr on the Chromebooks is very helpful.

We have a lot of things going on in our school - we have iPads, Chromebooks, desktops, we use the Google Classroom platform, but all computers are loaded with MS Office and it is the preference for all staff. I also teach Office because it is still the industry standard and students need to know how to use it (I feel that Google is a great tool for collaboration and research, but it isn't the only tool that students should have access to). So far, I have been able to get all devices and platforms to play well together and the kids are doing great things.

Sorry - back to topic (I get pretty excited when I think of all the things we have going)! I was able to sell my administration on going with CC because we will have the most current version at all times. I was able to make a very good case because last fall, we purchased a CC 2015 license for me to use and get up to speed with for this coming fall. When I went to design a new school website, I opened Dreamweaver and didn't have a clue what to do because there was so much change between CS3 and CC. I literally closed the program and my laptop and went home and cried because I couldn't even start a web site. It took me three weeks to get a plain jane website going in the new version, versus something that used to take me about 2 hours to have up and running. I still have problems with the new DW and am not at all comfortable with it. (But I discovered Muse, and will be using that to revamp our website this summer!) I NEVER want to put my students in that position, by having them think they are trained on a software, only to find they literally know nothing because they were trained on old software. I

Jayanthi Sridhar

Posted on 2/22/16 7:12:26 AM Permalink


This is a question for which I would like to see the responses.Students who use mobile phones at home find the photo editors easy to use and constantly ask if Photoshop /After effects can be downloaded for free.Wish we had a free to download offer sometime of the year at least - this will definitely help in reaching out to more students.

Maris Herr

Posted on 2/21/16 12:45:32 PM Permalink

Hi Karen,

I was asked only last week if I thought that the school I'm at should move to CC from seats for CS6 or not. Weighing up the pros and cons I had to say no. Currently the students have access to CS6 in labs but not on their individual devices. So far students only working at school hasn't been an issue but that may change.

The student devices (netbooks) wouldn't handle CS and add to that a lack of high speed internet and using hardwired desk tops becomes attractive in terms of getting things done. In answer to your question; there are alternatives out there and it is a matter of hunting for those that will work with the system and budget in place in your school. I do need to say that none of the alternatives I've found so far are as good as anything offered in CS6, but sometimes we all have to work with what is available, not the best that is available..?

The other problem is the rise and rise of Google Docs as the preferred platform for everything... I'm finding that it doesn't play well with other software at all and I'm having to change a lot of the interactive element in the notes I give students so they can simply access them. At this stage I assume that we will be staying CS6 but would love to hear how others, particularly in regional Australia, are dealing with the problems?

Cheers Maris

Karen Hellyer

Posted on 2/21/16 6:19:07 PM Permalink

Thanks Maris. We are running into compatibility issues where students are using CC applications at home, then coming back to CS6 at school and not being able to work in the lab or on their school-owned laptops. Also, a lot of the new training available is geared towards CC rather than established CS6 products. My preference is to go the CC route. I'm a little surprised not to be hearing from more people on this topic. Thanks for your reply, and good luck!

Maris Herr

Posted on 2/22/16 12:31:24 PM Permalink

Hi Karen,

The focus on training for CC is frustrating.... when so many of us in education, not to mention an awful lot of professional design houses are still running CS6 (or earlier). The best solution I've found so far is YouTube, it can take some hunting but there is usually a video demo out there.