Digital and multimedia arts students and faculty from the three San Mateo County Community Colleges expressed their frustrations and disapproval with Adobe Inc.’s decision to end its free premium license now that classes have fully transitioned online.
Adobe Inc. is a software company known for its products that are utilized as creative platforms in various fields and industries. Adobe owns applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier, InDesign, Premiere and many more.
In March, Adobe reached out to schools and colleges and granted students a temporary license for premium subscription in an effort to ease the hardship as face-to-face instruction were suspended in effort to control and minimize the COVID-19 transmission.
As the spring semester ended, Adobe gave the students a final grace period of until July 6 to make us of the subscription. For the fall semester, Adobe bestows a 60% discount to all instructors and students to continue their access to the software using their school emails.
Aaron Joshua Nieva, a film graduate from College of San Mateo (CSM) who is now a digital art and animation student at Cañada College, is not happy with Adobe’s resolution.
“It feels completely unfair for the people who are jobless and can’t even afford the programs to begin with,” Nieva said. “They’re relying entirely on the college and the resources to get any kind of work done.”
As a student, Nieva would be willing to pay monthly for the subscription, but that he “is not going to like it.”
“I already paid for this class and as much as possible, I want to be able to finish this class,” he said.
Skyline College student Denise Martir was shocked that Adobe removed its free premium subscription, now that she is enrolled in her first digital art class.
“I think that we should be allowed to use it, seeing as how it’s pretty expensive and we have to pay for it out of our own pockets,” she commented.
Digital media professor Vera Fainshtein from the College of San Mateo explained how the free Adobe Premium subscription in the spring semester aided her students to finish her subject courses.
“It really, really helped a lot of students, and I think it is extremely unfortunate that they were unable to extend this offer for a longer period of time,” she said. “We’re still in the middle of the pandemic.”
When in-person instruction was suspended March 11, Fainshtein recommended some alternative applications with which her students could finish their projects temporarily, however, she described these applications as “not ideal”.
“Adobe is the industry standard,” Fainshtein said. “We want to make sure that students are learning the most up-to-date software. We want to make sure that they get excellent jobs when they leave the college.”
Over the first few weeks of the fall semester, Fainshtein received emails from students expressing their concerns now that courses have fully transitioned online.
“They either couldn’t afford to pay for a subscription, or they didn’t have a computer that was powerful enough to run the software,” Fainshtein said.
For digital art and animation professor Emanuela Quaglia of Cañada College, Adobe’s resolution of discontinuing this privilege places her students in a tight situation.
“Do we want to just give the tools to the few who can have the best computer and the software right away?” Quaglia said. “What about all the others? We cannot really see all the difficulties that they can find at home, and I’m sure that many of them have many difficult moments they are facing, especially because there are many students who have lost their jobs. Some of the students have kids.”
Quaglia pointed out how learning Adobe software is crucial for the future and competitiveness of digital arts and animation students, as they are the industry’s standard for creatives.
“You can do very nice graphic design and a good job in your photography editing, but the point is trying to give an education that allows our students to be competitive in the market,” she said. “The field is very, very competitive, so you need to know all the very best tools.”
Fainshtein believes that students must learn Adobe applications because that’s “what companies want.”
“I think that in order for them to be able to be competitive in the field to get good jobs, they absolutely have to know Adobe,” Fainshtein said. “Unfortunately, that’s the industry standard, and not everyone can afford to have the programs or can have a powerful Macintosh computer to do design work.”
Nieva also acknowledged the impact of Adobe in the industry as a digital artist.
“I’ve been told that, more or less, when it comes to people working with these companies, they want to make sure that you know how to use Adobe,” Nieva said. “If I have to constantly rely on cheaper variants to finish my art, I worry about how it could really affect my reputation with these companies who are looking to hire, because they’re going to look for people who actually have more experience working with Adobe.”
In an email sent to the SMCCCD administration, Director of Web Services Christopher Smith expressed disappointment that the free premium subscription was discontinued in July.
“Adobe support was not able to provide us with a clear reason why or a workaround that would allow our in-classroom licenses to work for our students now studying remotely,” he said.
However, Smith said that they are working closely with the instructors and students, offering alternative access for instructional purposes and lending laptops with Adobe Cloud installed. Additionally, he mentioned buying discounted licenses from CollegeBuys.org for students who like to have Adobe Cloud on their own computers.
Previously-mentioned Skyline College student Denise Martir believes that having the discount would still be a great help to the students.
“I guess it’s a bit understandable that they removed the free subscription, because they’re still trying to make money,” she said. “Just as long as they give the student discount to all students — and seeing as how it’s 60% off, that’s a lot.”
The way Quaglia sees it, letting the students use Adobe for free should not be a big deal.
“These students will be employees in the future,” she said. “They will use (Adobe’s) products, and maybe they will have their own business. They would be artists, and they would run their own thing, and they would use Adobe forever. It’s an investment also for Adobe. I don’t think Adobe has any problem.”