July 14, 1999

University System's Groundbreaking Agreement with Microsoft Provides Low-Cost Software to Local School Systems, Public and Independent Universities, Colleges

A groundbreaking agreement between Microsoft and an education consortium led by the University System of Maryland will provide Maryland students of all ages, from institutions both public and independent, with low-cost access to the latest desktop software.

The $1.5 million enterprise agreement, established with the newly formed Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC), will feature Microsoft's most widely used software suite, Microsoft Office. Under the agreement, students, teachers and staff members in dozens of Maryland school systems, community colleges, independent colleges, and public universities both within and outside the University System, will have access to desktop productivity tools, infrastructure server and messaging products, and operating systems upgrades for three years.

Institutions will pay less than $14 per license for each year of the three-year agreement, with two optional years available after that. The software suites, which include word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs, as well as Microsoft's internet browser, normally retail to educators for around $150 each. The agreement is not exclusive - participating schools and colleges will continue to be free to use and support any other software products they choose.

MEEC represents 65 educational institutions - including some of the state's largest school systems, the 13 USM institutions, as well as private colleges and universities. Together MEEC institutions support more than 96,000 computers. Some 22,000 students are expected to take advantage of the program when it begins later this month. Seven of the participating colleges and universities plan to include students in the program from the beginning by allowing them to make use of the software on their own computers; other institutions will add students at a later date.

"Personal computers have become such an integral part of the learning experience, that for students to be fully engaged in their education means they must have easy access to sophisticated software," said USM Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg, originator of the MEEC agreement. "We view software as a basic tool of education, just as vital to the student and teacher as the chalkboard or the pencil. If you provide students early on with the tools they need to be successful, then you establish for them a continuity and stability that will benefit them well into their college years and beyond. Students need to be more than 'computer literate' - they need to be 'technology adept.' This agreement sets us clearly in that direction, by allowing all of us to talk to each other in a common digital language."

Maryland is among the first states in the nation to form a consortium to unite its entire education system, public and independent, kindergarten through college. All 13 USM institutions, 16 institutions belonging to the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association, 14 community colleges, and 10 local school systems, among others, have joined MEEC at the invitation of Chancellor Langenberg. Educational institutions in Maryland not part of the initial MEEC agreement will be allowed to join any time during the first two years of the contract.

The USM will serve as the sole fiscal agent for the agreement. Bell Education of Rockville, MD, working with MicroAge, a Microsoft-approved large account reseller, will provide the software.

"Microsoft applauds the innovation behind the creation of the MEEC as a solution to meet the technology needs of students and teachers statewide," said Rebecca Needham, higher education marketing manager for Microsoft's Education Group. "The MEEC is an excellent example of how K-12 and higher education leaders in Maryland are using technology to revolutionize the teaching and learning experience, and we are committed to working with these education clients to find new ways to help them make technology decisions that best fit the needs of their institutions. We think the MEEC is a great model for educators to consider as they work to simplify the process of selecting, managing and supporting technology so they can focus more time and energy on teaching and learning."

Because of its size, the University System of Maryland can leverage its buying power by negotiating high volume contracts. This model of economies of scale made the Microsoft agreement a natural outgrowth of the System's initiative to develop synergies between the primary, secondary, and higher-education sectors.

State regulations require the USM to present the contract to the Maryland Board of Public Works for final approval. The BPW's sign-off today will allow the System and Microsoft to begin distributing software to the 65 institutions participating in the agreement.

For more information, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the MEEC, visit the MEEC Homepage at www.usmsc.edu/meec/meechome.html.


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739
Pager: 301/507-2316
E-mail: chart@usmh.usmd.edu