I'm not mentioning this because I'm an alarmist and think this is the end of civilization. It's an incredible investment that goes a step beyond the old academic licensing. I paid my own way through college and having to spend even more money on software made it much more difficult. I would have welcomed a program like this, and I applaud Microsoft for stepping up to the plate.
Here's an excerpt of what Bill Gates says about DreamSpark in a video interview on channel8:
I've always believed in getting developers at as young an age as possible. These are the tools that people can build a career around or they can just build fun software for themselves. The basics of understanding how good architecture works, the data structures ... those have been the same for the last 30 years. Fundamentally, the skills of design, of knowing what good code looks like -- that is going to be valuable for at least the next three decades.
Regardless of what your personal opinion is, the man has a point. My first development language was Apple BASIC, and I still use BASIC-like languages in Microsoft Access, Visual Basic, and Lotus Notes. Apple got me hooked at an early age and now I'm loathe to step away from my comfort zone.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and whether there is a sharp uptick in the number of Microsoft-oriented developers in the next few years.