Microsoft on Tuesday announced a new offer called Student Advantage that allows educational institutions that pay for Office 365 for staff and faculty to provide those services to students at no cost. This includes Office 365 Education as well as Office 365 ProPlus, which is essentially a subscription-based version of the Office 2013 Professional Plus software suite.

"Students use Office every day for school work and activities that are most important to them," Microsoft vice president Anthony Salcito explains. "Office not only helps students stay organized and get their work done today but at the same time develops skills that will be required when they enter the work force. We are thrilled to offer Student Advantage to schools across the globe so students have access to the latest, most up-to-date version of the world's leading set of productivity tools in order to give them a competitive advantage when entering the workforce."

Student Advantage kicks off on December 1. At that time, the more than 35,000 educational institutions that are already subscribed to Office 365 will automatically become eligible to deliver the Student Advantage benefit to their students. Which is a pretty huge crowd, when you consider that there are 110 million users on Office 365 Education today, and almost 98 percent of students using productivity software currently use Microsoft Office, according to Microsoft. (All students should use productivity software. What the heck is wrong with this world?)

Tuesday's announcement was tied to the release of an IDC study about the skills students need for the top 60 high-growth, high-wage occupations that will account for 11.5 million new hires and 28 percent of job growth by 2020. Yes, it was commissioned by Microsoft. But it found that oral and written communication, detail orientation, and Microsoft Office proficiency top the list.

"The only software package called out within the top 20 skills across all occupations is Microsoft Office, explicitly required in 15 percent of high-growth, high-salary positions," Microsoft notes. "Microsoft Office is No. 3 on the list of skills most required, and Microsoft PowerPoint and Word are No. 11 and No. 13 most required skills."