That's a great price for Premiere CS5, Richlab! You should definitely go for it.
Though it's unlikely Premiere Pro will use LESS resources or work more efficiently than Premiere Elements. Pro is professional (or pro-sumer) software, and it demands a LOT of power. At the very least, it will run similarly to Premiere Elements.
Though, you're right, being a 64-bit program, Pro will take better advantage of your computer's 64-bit architecture. And, yes, you can have both Pro and Elements on your computer at the same time and they shouldn't interfere with each other. So it's definitely worth downloading the fully-functional trial of Pro and giving it a test drive.
Some people have reported being able to open Premiere Elements projects in Premiere Pro -- but I make no guarantees. It may or may not be fully compatible. This might be a good question to post to the Premiere Pro Community Forum on http://Muvipix.com. There are a number of experienced users there who can probably give you a more accurate answer than I.
Richard, something I noticed when research the educational pricing was that, even though you pay more, the CS5.5 packages containing Premiere Pro seem like better deals that Premiere Pro stand-alone.
For example, the most expensive Production Premium CS5.5 package (the "Instituional Edition") is $598. But for that additional $250, you get Premiere Prod, plus:
Adobe After Effects® CS5.5
Adobe Photoshop® CS5 Extended
Adobe Audition® CS5.5
Adobe Flash® Catalyst® CS5.5
Adobe Flash Professional CS5.5
Adobe Illustrator® CS5
Adobe Encore® CS5
Adobe OnLocation™ CS5
Adobe Dynamic Link
Adobe Device Central CS5.5
Adobe Bridge CS5
Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5
Depending on your eligibility, you might even get the Production Premium package for $350 or $450.
I'm sure you've already researched, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
You should go to the http://forums.adobe.com/community/premiere/hardware_forum and read all of the articles in the drop down list, just above the forum messages
Also read all of the laptop message threads for the past month or so
Depending on your exact laptop (I don't know that model) you may or may NOT be able to effectively edit with PPro
Also go to http://forums.adobe.com/community/premiere/premierepro_current and read any message that mentions a laptop
Then, look at laptops that are specifically designed for video editing and compare to your model
Some ideas for a Laptop Video Editing PC
-NOTE only 1 hard drive in above, so you will need to add a 2nd drive or use eSata for video files
-or Google "ASUS G74SX-BBK7" (without the quote "" marks)
-or another brand laptop with the following features
-the newer sandy bridge 2720 or 2820 quad processor
-and nvidia graphics preferably the 460m, 485m is a bit much
-1280x900 display with OpenGL 2.0-compatible graphics card
-and 8 or 16 gig ram and Win7 64bit Pro
-and 2 internal 7200 HDDs minimum
1) If I install Premiere Pro on my machine, will it be able to work with videos created in PE9?
>>You can install both Premiere Elements & PRO at the same time even launch and work with both the apps simultaneously.
2) I assume the Pro version will be faster, but will it solve some of the problems I’ve been having in PE9?
>>Pro is 64bit while PRE9 is 32bit so the scenarios where higher memory is required, PRO will be having advangate of able to use greater than 4GB RAM. However, 64bit version of PRE10 is now available. So performance of Pro & PE10 should be comparable
a) difficulty regulating audio levels even using key frames and the audio panel
>>Please state exactly what you want to do
b) some rough spots in the narration even after rendering (I use a mike that is plugged into the mike jack with a mini-plug. I don’t use a USB mike).
>> try to record using Windows Sound recorder and see if its doing the same
c) thought bubbles bouncing around
d) difficulty selecting the text box when doing titles. If I don’t hit just the right spot, it becomes the text editor and I have to try again to select the text box
>> Select the Text layer on Video track instead of text box on monitor panel.
3) Although I have 8gb of RAM, my video card has only 1gb. Will that still allow a lot of improvement in performance if I go to Premiere Pro?
>> Pls check in Pro forum. you will see improvements in the area where the application uses GPU card. I think Pro uses this for preview and few other stuff.
4) With an educational discount, I can get Premiere Pro for $345. Do you see any reason (based on what I’ve said above) not to get it?
>> No idea
For # 2, there is another consideration - Adobe's Mercury Playback Engine (MPE), which can be run from software, but really comes into its own with an approved CUDA-capable nVidia card, where many operations are passed on to the GPU, and are accelerated. This ARTICLE goes into more detail.