Robert Humphreys, Jr. comes from a long line of educators. In 1896, his great-grandfather John R. Humphreys, Sr. began as academic administrator of the Stockton Business College, Normal School, and Telegraphic Institute, an institution founded in the 1870’s in Stockton, California. His grandfather, John R. Humphreys, Jr. took over the operation of the school in the late 1930s. After several name changes, the school was organized as Humphreys University in 1947. Robert’s father, Robert Humphreys, Sr., assumed direction of the school in 1980; in 2005, Robert himself became involved with the school, eventually being appointed as president in 2014. Long focused on the liberal arts and career preparation, HU provides undergraduate, graduate, and law degrees on two campuses in Stockton and Modesto, California, as well as two fully-online programs.
Humphreys has been working with or around the university for most of his life. As a boy, he mowed lawns on the campus. He remembers when they got their first mainframe computer system in the early 1980s, and their eventual move to an IBM AS/400 terminal. When he was hired full-time at HU in 2005, the school was using Jenzabar’s ERP solution; in 2012, he oversaw the switch to Ellucian’s Colleague, another mainstream ERP.
After plunking down around a quarter-million for the system, HU stuck with Colleague for five years. It ran on HU’s servers at HU’s expense. Annual maintenance fees increased every year; the final contract year extracted well over $100,000 from the school. They also found it difficult to adjust the software to meet their needs. Every change required a programmer to modify the codebase and typical jobs cost thousands of dollars for only a few hours of work.
Robert started looking around for alternatives in 2017, knowing he wanted a less expensive, web-based system. A nearby school recommended that he take a look at Populi. The Populi team set up a sandbox for him and HU’s power users to test the system, and after putting it through its paces, they decided it would suit HU’s needs. “I thought people would easily adopt it because its kind of like shopping on Amazon, as opposed to learning how to work a piece of software,” Robert remarked of the decision.
The transition from Colleague to Populi was a lot shorter than he expected, with broad adoption of the system across HU’s staff, faculty, and students. “Our [data] migration was one quarter. It’s been very, very easy. People have just picked it up. Every time we've thought of something we wanted to do, Populi could do it. I just printed out a stack of 1098-Ts and I can't tell you how unbelievably simple it was compared to what we had to do before. It took me 30 seconds to do it. And then I printed the mailing labels out on top of it. I almost cried.”
Robert did have some concerns making the switch. “Our former system was one of the big systems and I knew that Populi didn’t have all of the same features.” The main challenge was Populi’s lack of a full accounting system for payroll and accounts payable. Ultimately, HU outsourced those functions to a third party; their accountants now log in to Populi and export whatever reports they need.
In the end, Robert estimates that HU saved over 50% on information system costs.
“We were really fortunate to find Populi. I’m a huge fan.”