U.Va. Eliminating Public Computer Labs

Because most students own their own laptops, officials are cutting labs to save money.

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The University of Virginia is planning to shut down its public computer labs by the summer of 2011 in order to help the institution cut its budget, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The school spends $300,000 a year maintaining the labs, although it's hard to predict exactly how much would be saved by eliminating them.

In an explanation published on the university's Web site, information-technology officials say that students' changing habits have rendered the public labs obsolete. A survey conducted last fall revealed that 99 percent of new students brought their own laptops to the campus. And while the labs are still heavily used (students spent 651,900 hours in the labs last year), internal data indicated that 95 percent of the time those students used the lab computers to surf the Web and read and compose text documents—tasks that officials say they could easily do on their own computers.

For students who rely on specialized programs such as such as MatLab, Eclipse, MathCAD, and SPSS, the school said it plans to negotiate licensing agreements so students could run the software on their own laptops through the university network. Officials are also working on logistics for printing and accommodating students without computers.