Populi is fundamentally different in its business approach. Instead of proposing one solution in one product category and building their company from there, the company chose to target one specific client type: smaller colleges. And from there, they offered them an all-in-one software suite.
At first, we had doubts about this company. How can they be successful in such a harsh environment where bigger competitors, backed with tons of money from investors, control hefty market shares? The solution: stay under the radar, target smaller institutions and offer them everything they need.
What Does Populi Offer?
When it comes to the administration of an institution and the services to its students, there is nothing Populi does not do. Let’s review the full product suite, categorized by business needs:
- Recruit prospective students
The system includes CRM functionalities, inquiry forms, automation and pipeline reporting. It can handle requests by SMS, email and even manage print materials.
- Admit applicants
It offers online and mobile applications: manages application fees, build customizable admission reports, and oversees 100% online reference checks. It even includes a tool for applicants to send in-app questions.
- Teach students
LMS, proctor, plagiarism checker, video conferencing tool, online tests and discussions as well as assignment submission, the integrated Populi system does it all.
- Administer student files
It cares for all registrarial needs. The product includes a unified student profile across the entire platform, an automated transcript builder, a degree audit feature, an online registration capability and a degree completion advisor tool.
- Support student financial needs
The financial aid module includes a fully-integrated aid processing with direct connections to DoED, award synchronization with COD and SAP reporting features. It can also schedule disbursements, such as awards and update COD information as required.
- Bill student accounts
The system handles billing to student accounts, and payment plans, including recurring and mobile payments. It also reconciles transactions and runs summary entries for external accounting solutions. A tuition fee management module affects rules to student accounts and can invoice in bulk or individually.
- Connect with alumni and donors
Once students have become alumni, they can be managed within the same system. The advancement module includes online and mobile donations, campaign management and bulk communications (SMS, email and print).
Despite the fact that this system offers pretty much everything a small college would need, it is still built with Web API, LTI and webhooks capabilities.
Clients of Populi
Looking at the Listedtech database, Populi has a minimal market share overall (around 2.5% in HigherEd). As mentioned in the introduction, it is more successful in smaller institutions, mainly those with a religious background. In our database, we have more than 300 implementations for this product.
Based on Populi’s website, allow us to do a small analysis of a sample of its customers.
- Humphreys University is an independent, non-profit liberal arts college. It has 486 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs (fall 2019) and uses Populi since 2019.
- Kuyper College is a ministry-focused Christian leadership college located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, that educates and trains Christian leaders for ministry and service. It uses Populi since 2020 and has 152 students, 140 of them being at the undergraduate level.
- Arizona Christian University is a private, non-profit Christian university located in Phoenix, Arizona, United States. Populi has been implemented since 2019 and has 925 students.
- South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary is a Christian school that provides a non-denominational theological education. SFBC implemented Populi in 2012 and has 313 students.
- Visible Music College is a Music and Worship Arts College in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. Its mission statement is to train and equip musicians, technicians, and business professionals in skill and character for effective service in the music industry and in the Church. Populi provides services to the college since 2008 and the college has 120 students.
We can see where Populi attracts most of its customers: from smaller colleges that often have a link to religion. Its current pricing model also influences its market share. With a base monthly price of $199 plus $7 per billable student, we understand why smaller institutions are interested in this product. A 100,000-student university will not find its price plan as attractive as a 300-student college.
With its niche market in the small religious colleges, Populi still has the potential to grow. The precise number of religious colleges and universities in the U.S. is unknown. Some sources mention 500, others 7,000. With its current client base of roughly 360 institutions, Populi has room to expand its client base. One question remains: will it decide to go outside its comfort zone and aim at bigger, non-religious colleges?