Are you sure about this? I get academic pricing on all my software (I purchase a ton of software for student's, facutly and staff), and it doesn't seem to differ at all from the store bought versions. It's either standard, professional and so on. AFAIK, the price scale and licensing model is the only difference (and of course the package label is a little different). Maybe there is some obscure XP reg key (actually every reg key is an obscurity) that flags it as un-upgradeable, but I have yet to run into this. What I have noticed however, and what you may be refering to, is that there is no academic pricing at all for upgrades. You only get a deal only if you buy a full edition. Your future upgrade will cost you about $189, whereas another full edition of the next generation product will most likely cost you $149 (this assumes that you are still a student).Hm, $149 for Office XP "special student edition". What is special about it? Why, it can't be upgraded down the line of course.
M$ is a bunch of jerks.
You should see the Visual Studio academic pricing. It's like $1000 less for students than it is off the shelf! I got Visual Studio .NET professional for $80. I guess this says something for how much M$ wants young people to learn their product.
Mac also has incredible academic pricing for products like Final Cut Pro, which cost the regular joe an arm and a leg.