I am currently using dev++, I am a complete beginner, (Freshman CS major) learning C++. I can get one of the newest versions of visual studio (2008 or 2009 i think) for free through my school. Not sure if it is worth the trouble of getting. thoughts?
If by "dev++" you mean this monstrosity, then drop it as fast as you can.
There have been no updates to Dev-C++ in over six years, it's buggy, comes with a really ancient version of gcc and is not worth the cost of the download.
Visual C++, on the other hand, is a world-class compiler and one of the best the IDEs available. That you can get it for free is great (even the Express Editions are light years ahead of Dev-C++) and I wouldn't hesitate.
I can't speak more highly of any IDE than Visual Studio. It's useless for Java and such, but it is great for C++ and incredible if you get into .NET. With a price point of Free, there's absolutely no reason it's not worth checking out at the minimum. I suppose it's not for everyone but odds are you'll love it.
Is your school a part of the Microsoft Academic Alliance? If so, you can pretty much get any MS product for free, apart from the Office suite of products.
It is worth checking with your school , as I have been able to get things such as VS professional edition, Windows 7 Professional, SQL Server Enterprise, Visual Studio Team System, all for free.
There are also a hell of a lot more products on there.
You can get Visual Studio 2010 for free by just downloading it of the Microsoft Web Site. It is not the full version, but is plenty good enough for learning.
A lot of people have said they really like VC++ and recommend it. Honestly, I don't like VC++ much (it's not bad per-se, I just prefer a more command-line driven workflow with vim, make, gdb, etc.) and I'd still recommend that you get it. It's free, so there's essentially no downside to installing it and at least comparing it to what you are using now. As you are in school it's a great time to look at the breadth of options available and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each
Point blank answer: YES.
You have to remember that, regardless of whether you get it from school (via the MSDNAA) or through DreamSpark, you are going to be using a version with an academic license. Technically, that means you're supposed to only use it for school, although I don't know that there are people going around and looking at the metadata of people's source code to see what version they used.
If you want an alternative to both VS and Dev++, you could also use Eclipse, which has a C/C++ version, which would also help you transition to Java, if it's part of your curriculum.