SAS stops charging students, profs for software

By Jennifer Kavur, ComputerWorld Canada |  Software, Analytics, SAS

Students and professors at universities around the world will have free access to business analytics software and resources from SAS Institute Inc. starting in the fall 2010 semester.

SAS OnDemand for Academics, a Web-based service hosted by SAS on servers in Cary, N.C., provides access to SAS Enterprise Guide (which includes Base SAS) and SAS Enterprise Miner (which includes SAS Text Miner). SAS plans to add additional applications over time.

The online service launched globally in March 2008. Professors have always had free access, while students were required to pay roughly US$50 to use it.

SAS announced the offering at the SAS Global Forum in Seattle. "We want to make sure that SAS is being used more and more at the university level," said Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, to a group of press.

Goodnight holds a Ph.D. in statistics from North Carolina State University, where he taught before founding SAS in 1976.

Analytics has become one of the hottest topics in business, said Goodnight. "The more students that graduate with the knowledge of SAS, the more that will promote the use of analytics in business and that's very important these days," he said.

This is a "tremendous move" from SAS, said Hugh Watson, a professor of MIS at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business. "I think it will result in much more increased usage of the software by universities."

The fee was nominal, but if professors were only going to use the software for a week of class because they were also using other BI software, it was difficult to justify the price for students, he said. "You tended to do something else," he said.

The Web-based delivery model is more university-friendly than downloading it onto your PC or receiving a box with client software, he said. "The two models that have been out there the most ... are much more difficult for universities to work with," he said.

With downloadable software, there are issues with operating systems that aren't supported; boxed softwarerequires installation and maintenance, he said.

SAS's initiative is part of a growing trend among vendors to offer free software and resources to help universities teach business analytics skills to students.

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