Your right, those features are nearly PS specific. You can accomplish the same graphic goal different ways but the learning curve is really not worth the dollar cost for most people.
If your looking at College take advantage of the "hook'em early" specials.
Photoshop CS2 9.0 MAC US$299
Photoshop Elements 3.0 MAC US$69
I don't know about the legal ramifications of an eBay copy but I think your ok if it's an unused copy. If someone buys a copy which you get from them at a lower price (eg: bankruptcy) you get an unused license I think your ok. I probably wouldn't be brave enough to try that on eBay but there are a ton of bankruptcy companies who might just get such a copy to part with for pennies on the dollar.
Tom suggested I sign up and post this in the forums as you wonderful people may be willing to point me in the right direction
About a year ago, much to my wallet's anguish, I quit pirating music, software, and other forms of booty so that I could have a clean conscience. The only thing I have not found a truly suitable replacement for is Photoshop. Now I know there are great applications like Paint.Net and The Gimp. But they do not do things like Curve layers the way I wish (allowing me to set black or white points in photographs) and minor things like that that make them useless for me, nor allow me to make HDR images.
I was looking at my options, and I am thinking about buying Photoshop 7 on eBay for about a hundred dollars. But I was not sure if this is legal, or if I ever wanted to upgrade Adobe would let me. It feels a little shady but to do what I want to do it feels like the only option. I also took a look at Photoshop Elements and was surprised to see the list which I included below of things it can't do. So really, what can it do? Crop and resize JPEG's a little faster than paint? Oi Vai, you call these Photo Editors?
So what would be my best option if I want to stay legit, outside of purchasing Photoshop right now for $650. When I start college in spring I'm buying a MacBook, and perhaps if PS CS3 is out then I'll get that as well. But my fundage is a little tight like everyone else in the world, and Adobe just doesn't seem to care.