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Mount Tamalpais College expands higher education access for the incarcerated With BILL financial automation

Customer Stories >

Mount Tamalpais College expands higher education access for the incarcerated With BILL financial automation

June 24, 2022, was a huge day of celebration at Mount Tamalpais College (MTC). After a few hard years reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, family and outside visitors finally gained permission to enter San Quentin State Prison to honor the graduating classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022. This graduation was more than just a personal milestone for students—it seemed to be an overall signal that better times were ahead.

MTC isn’t your average college. Formally known as the Prison University Project, it’s the first independent accredited liberal arts institution dedicated to serving the incarcerated. And programs like MTC can have a big impact. They’ve been shown to help people get jobs post-release, reduce reincarceration rates, and can lead to moving stories of personal transformation.

To support their mission of expanding access to higher education for incarcerated people, MTC has taken steps to establish a solid financial foundation. BILL is helping them streamline workflows, strengthen vendor relationships, and free up time for the kind of big-picture planning that led to them being awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama in 2016 for their innovative work.

Mount Tamalpais College classroom

The pandemic brought change to students and the need for new workflows

The path to MTC graduation in 2022 was full of challenges and delays. “San Quentin was hit hard by the pandemic,” said Molly Parent, Communications Director at Mount Tamalpais College. “Many people got sick, and it was a period of trauma for our students and everyone in the San Quentin community.”

Commencement hadn't happened for three years, education programs had been on and off due to lockdowns, and participants had often been unable to access the in-person connection that serves as a positive, motivating force.

While students and faculty faced lockdowns and class cancellations inside San Quentin due to COVID-19, there were also disruptions in the back office. “We did everything on paper pre-pandemic,” explained Wendy Bear, Chief Operating Officer for Mount Tamalpais College.

MTC’s traditional processes quickly became cumbersome once staff began working remotely. Previously straightforward tasks like printing checks or passing paperwork to colleagues for signatures and approvals were now a lot more complicated. It wasn’t long before Bear and team decided to update their financial infrastructure to consolidate processes and adapt to the new reality of work.

“BILL has really made a big difference. I can focus on other things as opposed to just getting the paperwork done and getting signatures. And next time we have an audit, we’ll have all our invoices, vendors, and everything all in one place. That’s super helpful.” — Wendy Bear, COO, Mount Tamalpais College

Adopting BILL to succeed in a hybrid work environment

After Mount Tamalpais College adopted BILL, they quickly saw a difference. “BILL consolidated everything and made it so much easier to manage all of our payables,” Bear explained. “When I first got here, I spent much more time shepherding and working through payment processes. Now it's a few minutes a day and we don’t have to deal with paper files since it’s all in BILL.”

Along with facilitating hybrid work, the team appreciated greater simplicity and transparency in the approval process. “With BILL, I have more control and can see exactly what's happening with an invoice, and we’re never wondering where it is in the process,” said Bear. “The information is super clear. We can easily see the next steps or if any information is missing. The invoices start and finish in the same place–we don’t have to look for things because it’s all in BILL. That's been the best thing.”

Using BILL for easy employee reimbursements and strong vendor relationships

MTC now uses BILL for everything from rent and utilities to general supplies. The team highlighted that reimbursements for employees and approvers got easier with BILL simplifying the approval process. “People can just take a picture of their receipt and attach it as an email,” said Bear. “Today, I just went in and could easily see what’s been approved. If I have to send someone a reminder, I don’t have to go type up a whole new email and feel like a nag. They just get a little reminder ping from BILL.”

As Communications Director, Parent shared that BILL’s simplicity has been helpful with vendor relationships. “I mostly work with contractors supporting our communications efforts, like photographers, videographers, and graphic designers, to create materials about the college,” she said. “I value those relationships and everyone needs to be paid in a timely fashion to keep them smooth. Thanks to BILL, I don't have to worry about invoices getting lost or getting complaints about vendors not receiving payments.”

“BILL was pretty straightforward in helping us to automate our payables—and it made our lives better instantly.” — Wendy Bear, COO, Mount Tamalpais College

Mount Tamalpais College graduates

Graduating to a new financial system, providing more time for big-picture planning

2022 has seen some big wins for MTC. After returning to the classroom and traditions like commencement, they’re optimistic about the future. With BILL helping to create a solid financial foundation, MTC has more bandwidth for their mission. “Because of BILL, I'm able to focus more on planning and decision making at a higher level and do more forward thinking,” said Bear.

MTC has now set their sights on growing and deepening their current student support services. “We’re focused on all of the things a college does to support its students, like advising and providing support for students with special learning needs,” Parent told us. “We've just recently launched our first-ever computer lab. Before this point, students had to do all of their coursework by hand.” The team is also looking for new ways to support their all-volunteer faculty and build a stronger support network for alums seeking job and housing opportunities. It’s no doubt been a challenging road, but MTC has persevered. BILL is thrilled to help the organization continue to adapt, expand access to education, and contribute to creating a more equitable society.

“My colleagues are passionate and committed to this cause. As we continue to improve those financial processes with BILL, it is easier for them to do the work they're doing so well.” — Wendy Bear, COO, Mount Tamalpais College

Mount Tamalpais College is the first independent accredited liberal arts institution dedicated specifically to serving incarcerated students. Their mission is to expand access to quality higher education for incarcerated people; and foster equity, civic engagement, independence of thought, and freedom of expression.

# of Employees





Dealing with paper-based processes in a hybrid office. Having multiple workflows for payments, reimbursements, and other transactions.



Accounting software



Consolidated workflows and significantly reduced time spent on admin. Opened up bandwidth for more big picture planning.

Customer since


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