Coming soon: official transcript requests

Coming soon: official transcript requests! While our crack coders apply the finishing graces to them, we thought we'd give you a preview of the upcoming features.

Your students will soon be able to request an official transcript right from their Profiles. Their requests will be queued up in the new Transcript Requests view in Academics; from there you can review and fulfill them with a few quick steps. Here's the whole story:

1. Setup

First you'll configure a few transcript request settings.

  • Delivery methods include print/mail and email. You can offer one or the other—or both.
  • Do you charge for transcript requests? You'll choose a fee and optionally set up fee rules to cover particular kinds of requests—for example, you charge one amount for a printed transcript, and another for an emailed one. You'll also have the option to not charge.
  • Charge for requests either by charge-to-account or by having your students cough up a credit card number upfront.
  • In general academic settings, you can enable web transcripts (more below).
2. Students submit requests

After you've enabled official transcript requests, a student will go to his Profile > Student view. From the new Transcript Actions button, he'll select Request Official Transcript. After entering information about the recipient and handling your payment arrangements, he'll submit it.

3. You fulfill the request

You'll find all of your students' requests on the new Transcript Requests view. To fulfill a request, you'll go to the request's info page. There, you'll choose a layout for the transcript, preview the document, and take care of the delivery details—emailing the web transcript link or printing a mailing label for a paper copy.

Web transcripts and a few interface updates

A few new items accompany transcript requests. The aforementioned web transcripts create a unique URL from which an up-to-date PDF transcript can be downloaded. This is handy for when you email a transcript link in March while the student's Spring courses are still in-progress—come June, after they're all finalized, the transcript recipient can just visit the URL to see how the student fared that semester. Once you enable web transcripts, every transcript you export will contain its own unique URL in the footer.

We've also placed the utilities gear onto the funeral pyre. We'll replace it with action links and the new Transcript Actions button; the gear on the Profile > Info view shall meet a similar fate.

We're pretty excited to get Transcript Requests out to all our customers. They'll replace some pricey standalone transcript request services some schools are using. And as with all new Populi features, they won't require any software integrations or other wiring-together. Just set 'em up and let 'em rip.

Stripe ACH Rate Change

Update: This article was published back in 2016 and some of the pricing details may be out of date by the time you read it. For complete pricing details for Stripe, we refer you to their own pricing page!

Populi recently participated in a beta version of Stripe.com’s ACH product which allows many of our colleges* to easily accept tuition payments and donations at a much lower rate (0.5% + 25¢) than credit cards (2.9% + 30¢).

Stripe recently brought their ACH features out of beta and published new pricing. So, as of August 1st, 2016, we’re pleased to announce a major rate decrease for larger transactions! The new rate is 0.8%, with a 25¢ minimum transaction fee and a $5 maximum transaction fee.

For small transactions this new rate may be slightly higher, but for larger transactions it’s a huge cost savings. For example, for a $5,000 tuition payment:

Old rate:
$5,000 * 0.5% + 25¢ = $25.25

New rate:
$5,000 * 0.8%, with a 25¢ minimum and $5 maximum = $5

Either rate represents a substantial savings compared to credit cards (accepting a $5,000 credit card payment via Stripe would cost your school $145.25), but in this example your college would now pay one fifth of the old ACH rate!

We’re confident this price change will allow more of our clients to benefit from the convenience of accepting online payments and donations, without the substantial fees associated with credit card transactions.

*Because of regulations regarding the ACH network we’re not able to offer this service to all colleges; typically only to established, accredited colleges. Please contact support to see if your college qualifies.

Localization: now you can translate Populi into other languages

New in Populi: localization. Localization lets you translate the various interface elements—text, buttons, links, and so on—so your non-English-speaking users can access Populi in their own language. Here's how it works:

1. Go to the new Localization view in Account

Your school's Populi account administrator goes to the new Localization view in Account > Account Settings. He'll name the localization and select the language to which Populi will default for untranslated words. Finally, he'll choose a flag to go along with the translation.

2. Start translating

The translation section is straightforward: find the base text on the left, enter translations on the right. You can translate Interface Text (every field, button, column heading—everything that we've given a name to) as well as your own text (application field names, tuition schedules, and so on). As you translate, Populi saves your entries automatically.

3. Continue translating

I'm not gonna lie to you: it's gonna take awhile! There are around half a zillion named things in Populi, and the developers are adding more all the time. If need be, you can just translate certain areas of Populi—for example, translate courses and financial info so foreign students can take classes and pay their bills.

4. Assign locales

Once a localization is completed (or complete enough for your needs), you can set up individual users so that they'll see the translated version of Populi when they log in. All you need to do is click the flag icon below a person's profile photo, select the locale, and click ye olde Save button (you can do this for yourself, too!). The localization will take effect immediately.

We're really pleased to get this out to all of our customers. Many schools have been using Populi to serve international students—conducting courses in German, for example, or setting up applications in Portuguese. Localization lets you complete the experience for your non-English speaking users.

One caveat: worldly and seasoned as we are, we remain unrepentant English-speakers here (a few of us know a little Latin and Greek), and new development will remain in English. So, when we develop new features or heavily rewrite existing ones, you'll need to update your translations. Likewise, we'll also conduct customer support in English and we'll have to assume you're asking about Populi as we wrote it (not as you may have translated it). If you've translated every instance of the phrase "Academic Term" to "Melon Baller", understand that we probably won't know what you're talking about when you write in with a problem on the Melon Baller report.

That said, we look forward to seeing what you'll do with localization!

Your data is yours

Your data is yours. We really mean it.

Let's say you want to stop using Populi and you need your data imported into another system. Populi lets you download your core data once every 24 hours from Account > Backups. The backup file includes:

  • Academics—everything from transcripts to transfer credits, from course lessons to the course catalog
  • Financial transactions—invoices, payments, financial aid, and donations
  • Admissions applications and all the information you have for your leads
  • All the people in your system together with all their contact and other personal info
  • Your entire Bookstore and Library

Here's how you (well, your school's account administrator) can get your data out of Populi:

1. Go to Account > Backups

After logging in, click Account and then go to Backups. If it has been more than 24 hours since your school last retrieved this file, you can click Request a Backup.

2. Confirm

Before creating the backup file, Populi asks you to confirm that you want to do this. Remember: this file contains a bunch of sensitive data—academic records, financial information, Social Security numbers, and a lot more! You'll want to take special care with this file, and this confirmation is one part of that.

3. Wait and download

The backup file can be pretty big and so it may take a little while to generate it (up to several hours). The moment the file is complete, Populi sends you an email. Once you receive the email, go to Account > Backups and download the file.

(You can also use the API to download data backups—see the API documentation for details)...

And that's it! The backup file with all your Populi data is in your hands, no strings attached. You can keep your own secure backups (in addition to ours) or load it into your school's new system... or whatever else you might need.

We’ve worked with a lot of schools that needed to get their legacy data from their old system. Many software companies really made them work for it. Some didn’t provide backups in the first place—they had to improvise a way to extract the data from their system. Others provided data that was missing crucial items (transfer credits, anything entered before 1996, you name it). Some had “business” in mind and charged schools to retrieve their data. One avaricious outfit compels their schools to sign another year-long contract!

Lock-in tactics range from the lazy to the vile. Our business plan—no long-term contracts, month-to-month billing, customers can cancel any time—means we have to win back all our customers every month. Free, no-strings-attached, comprehensive data backups mean we’ve made it easy to leave, and that we’ve got work to do if we want you to stay.

Update (June 8, 2016)

We’ve been asked about how the backups you can download relate to the regular data backups we already perform. Here’s the low-down:

  • There are two kinds of backups: Customer-requested, which are what is described above; and our Regular backups, which we automatically perform on an ongoing basis.
  • Regular backups are securely stored in a separate location and are meant to restore your data in case of emergency and provide historical data “snapshots” for various uses. Customer-requested backups are meant for your own needs and uses.
  • We perform these backups as follows: Hourly backups for 36 hours, daily for two weeks, weekly for 30 weeks, and monthly for 10 years. Each backup is a complete copy of everything in your Populi database; there are up to 200 backups per customer. See Update below for the changes we made to comply with GDPR.
  • Think of it like an actively-curated photo album: At any given moment, this photo album contains 36 pictures of the last two days, 14 of the last two weeks, 30 of the last 30 weeks, and 120 of the last ten years. As time moves on, a portion of your older snapshots are deleted, but new ones are always being added.
  • We keep your data around as long as you’re a customer; if you cancel your use of Populi, we delete your archived data after 90 days.
Update (February 4, 2019)

This post describes the updates we made to comply with the European Union's GDPR. In light of those changes, here's how we now handle Regular backups:

  • Hourly backups are performed for 36 hours, daily for two weeks, and weekly for 26 weeks.
  • All backup data is hard-deleted after 26 weeks; it takes an additional 26 weeks to fully purge all old backup data.
  • GDPR allows Populi to retain data connected to academic or financial information for various purposes (complying with an audit or subpoena, for example). Such data is never hard-deleted.

Soft credits for donations

You can now link people to donations using a soft credit. A soft credit lets you acknowledge someone for a donation besides the actual donor. For example, a wealthy tycoon donates $50,000 to your scholarship fund and you want to make sure that when you thank him, his wife is included in the acknowledgement. Or a donation comes in from a local corporation thanks to the efforts of a graduate who now works there—you can now give her the soft credit for the donation. Soft credits are awarded on a donation page right below where you link the donation with the donor. The Donors report and its communication actions have been updated to respect soft credits as well.

This was one of our customers' top requests for Populi Donations, and we're very pleased to get this out to everyone.

Bookstore returns, discount codes, and other good stuff

Populi Bookstore has a bunch of great new features this morning. As part of a general rewrite, we gave Bookstore improved return/refund processing, discount codes, and better inventory management (plus lots of interface improvements and upgrades). Here's  a look at the new stuff:

Returns and refunds

Bookstore now makes it easy to process returned items and refunds (let's be honest: it was not easy before). Returns are handled in Point of Sale: just click Return Items, scan or search for the items to return, and connect the returns to the original order. You can handle the entire refund right there, too: just pick your refund method from the drop-down (you can even refund to a student account) or use the refund to reduce the amount of a new purchase. Bookstore now also handles credit card refunds—it contacts your processor and reverses the charge without you having to do anything.

Discount codes

Discount codes let you offer your customers price breaks on items and shipping costs. You can specify a dollar or percent discount, whether the code applies only to certain items or customer types, minimum order amount, expiration dates, and more. Codes can be applied by customers at the online checkout or by you at Point of Sale. So now you can offer, say, free shipping on all online orders over $50, or give faculty and staff a 10% employee discount on books and apparel.

Inventory improvements

Bookstore now features a number of improvements to inventory management.

  • Each item segment now has better inventory tracking. Inventory batches let you record when you received a new shipment and the cost-per-item. Adjustments let you correct inventory for things like loss/damage or clerical errors. Each sale and return is also figured in so you know for sure what's in stock.
  • The new Inventory tool in Admin lets you add inventory batches for any item, while the Returned Items report lets you manage which returned items go back to your stock and which are counted as shrinkage.
  • On the accounting side, new settings let you specify your inventory cost flow method (FIFO or LIFO) as well as accounts for purchases, shrinkage, and COGS.
  • Of course, all those lovely reports have been updated to take all the new data into account.

We're really happy to get these Bookstore improvements out to our customers. They give you more control over your inventory, make everyday tasks easier for your Bookstore staff (and your school's accountant), and let you offer even more to your customers.

For more details, have a look at the Populi Knowledge Base.