A few years ago, back when I was in college, there was an academic program from Microsoft (called 'MSDN Academic Alliance') where you could get Windows and the Academic version of Visual Studio by going to the CS department office, checking out some CD's, and hoping that you didn't need to reinstall after you had to return them.

This morning, Microsoft is announcing a new program called DreamSpark that allows students in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Germany, France, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium to get Visual Studio Professional, Expression Studio, XNA Game Studio, Windows Server, and more....all for free! You just need to authenticate that you are indeed a student, and you will receive download access to these products.

This would probably be a good time to remind folks that the Visual Studio SDK and Visual Studio Shell Redistributable (which allow you to add custom extensions, languages, etc. to Visual Studio or "roll your own" custom IDE) are also free for everyone.

So, let's do the math. If you're a typical university student (who is most likely somewhere between broke and slightly over broke) .....

Visual Studio 2008 Pro $0.00
Visual Studio 2008 SDK $0.00
Visual Studio 2008 Shell Redist $0.00
GRAND TOTAL $0.00