This is a result of the U of I's site licensing deal with Microsoft. All you get is media and a serial number, all the docs are on CD. But they're real licenses, so long as I work for the U of I.
Here's what bugs me: Big corporate customers negotiate company-wide licenses for Microsoft stuff, just as government and educational institutions do. The only people who don't get a substantial discount on Microsoft Software are individual users and small businesses. Sure, a lot of people get stuff 'free' with their computer, but still, there's no real concept of a 'fair' price. You can pay $300, or you can pay 5.95, depending on who you are. It's almost as bad as buying a car: there's no real link between what you get and what you pay for it.