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MATLAB software now accessible for free to all UCLA students, staff and faculty

Students, faculty and staff can now access MATLAB for free via a campuswide license paid for by UCLA administrators. Students who purchased the software between Sept. 23 and Thursday are eligible for reimbursements. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

By Marilyn Chavez-Martinez

Nov. 3, 2019 10:09 p.m.

The UCLA community can now access the programming software MATLAB for free via a campuswide license.

UCLA administrators sent a campuswide email Thursday, announcing UCLA would be providing a campuswide license of the software for students, faculty and staff. Students who purchased the software between Sept. 23 and Thursday are eligible for reimbursements.

MATLAB is a program in which users can code and analyze data for both classes and research. Students who are required to use the program for engineering, science and mathematics or for other subjects such as psychology or economics can now access the software as long as they have a UCLA email address.

Previously, UCLA SEASnet offered access to MATLAB for free to students in some engineering courses, but it was only available through finals week. The software was also available on the servers in the engineering departments.

Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck said in an emailed statement to the Daily Bruin that the university found it could get a campuswide site license for the same amount departments and faculty typically spend on the software – not including how much students pay for the license.

The new license would cost the university approximately $200,000 per year and would come from the amount departments and individual faculty members typically spend.

The cost of purchasing the software ranges from about $50 to about $100 for students. For faculty or staff, the software price ranges from $250 to $500.

Vaibhav Gupta, a second-year electrical engineering student, is currently in a class that requires MATLAB. He said he thinks making the program available to everyone on campus might encourage students to learn different coding languages in their own time.

“The idea is that now it lets you kind of learn the language when you want to and not just when you need to,” Gupta said.

Zach Nobles, a third-year mechanical engineering student, has taken six classes that have required MATLAB. He said in the past he’s used a remote desktop that allowed him to have access to the software.

However, he added the remote desktop was difficult to use.

“It was just really hard to save files and turn in things because you didn’t actually have access to the files that you were using,” Nobles said. “They were there on some other server somewhere. I think they did have a free version of MATLAB you could get but it didn’t include the functions that we needed.”

Nobles said the software is essentially necessary for certain engineering courses, but thinks the software is useful for students of different fields as well.

“I think MATLAB gets a little bit of a reputation for being an engineering software, but it really is just like a matrix manipulation, like you move numbers around, and you can do some really cool stuff with it outside of engineering or mathematics,” Nobles said.

The license is part of a two-year pilot program and is expected to continue based on if the campus finds it advantageous, Beck said.

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Marilyn Chavez-Martinez | News and outreach senior staff
Chavez-Martinez was the 2020-2021 Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a fourth-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
Chavez-Martinez was the 2020-2021 Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a fourth-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
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