Is true that the "fahter" of MeshLab is italian, but not made by students. It was created by Doc. Paolo Cignoni, a reasercher at CNR
Exist a forum about this software and Cignoni and his team update and fix the software.
As I wrote, I think is great software, but for simple reasons can't compete directly and can't have the same support as a commercial solution.
Versions after versions MeshLab will be more robust and stable.
I know the prices are out of possibilities of students (and not only). Did you tried the demo versions? Maybe just to solve the issue you have with that big amount of poligons...
However... let me to ask some questions to you and give suggestions to avoid to be freezed with huge meshes.
Is really necessary that huge amount of polygons? What is your final purpose? Make renderings of the mesh? Edit it into a 3D software for other purposes? Use the scanned surface for a redrawing process? 3D printing?
Sometimes I see in this forum nice projects that have a polygon count too high related to is final purpose. 32 milion of poligon for one mesh is a real big number to work with. These values for one mesh are usually reached from the ZBrush sculptors that create files for high-level purposes: cinema FX production, Videogames creation, object-toys industrial production...
As I told they use software like ZBrush, maybe the only one on the market, at present day, that can handle milions of poligons also on "not-to-powerful" computer. But I know ZBrush is mainly created for sculpting and artistic purposes and don't have all the tools that a more "thecnical" user need.
But also this software can be usefull for a 3D scan project.
My main suggestion is: keep low as possible the polygons value and divide the object into sub-parts.
If it must be a unique smooth surface, ok maybe hard to cut it. but I think 90% of what I saw in this forum can be divided into several meshes with the lower polygons amount possible.
My working rule is: the size matters! Smaller is better
Obviously all is realted to the final purpose. So, please, let me know a little more about your project and maybe I could give you better suggestion to optimize the workflow and avoid those obstacles.