“[BILL Spend & Expense] is a great tool and has been instrumental in our efforts to provide an equitable learning experience and environment for our students.”
“Simplicity of Life, Directness of Purpose, Self-Reliance.” This is the motto that drives the mission of Kent School and how it educates its students and leads its faculty. Located in Kent, Connecticut, the coed boarding high school is committed to educating students intellectually, socially, ethically, and spiritually so that they are ready to contribute to the common good in the world once they graduate.
“Kent School is a great place to be. It’s a great place to work and it’s rewarding to know that the programs we implement in the business office can positively impact the student experience.” Tanya Horgan is the Business Manager at Kent School and says that even outside of the classroom, everyone who is part of the school community makes a difference in each student’s experience. One of her biggest responsibilities? Ensure Kent School faculty and staff have the right tools and systems in place to keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
“The entire Business Office team is committed to hopefully making the day-to-day operations of the school as efficient as possible. This means implementing systems and processes that best support faculty and staff so they have more time to interact directly with the students.”
Kent School was relying on its expense reimbursement process to fund purchases made by the faculty and staff for student programs. The process relied on employees being out-of-pocket their own money, and then manually preparing an expense reimbursement request form along with receipts. They then had to wait to get reimbursed.
Torrey Hall is the Director of Equity, Inclusion & Diversity at Kent School. He is also a math teacher, coach, and student advisor. “My role really affords me the opportunity to see Kent in many different facets.” As a student advisor, Torrey is responsible for any expenses that come with supporting his advisees. “I can’t even begin to explain how much of my own money I’ve spent and not requested to be reimbursed because at some level, it’s just not worth my time or the nuisance. I just kept saying under a certain amount, I really don’t feel like expensing this. Especially if I lose the receipt… Forget it.”
At first glance, this may seem fine, but this is not the desired outcome of the student advisor program. “It was really inefficient and a burden on the part of the advisors,” said Tanya. “In the business office, we noticed that not all of the advisors were submitting expense reimbursement requests. Many advisors, like Torrey, were either spending their own money, or they weren’t spending any money at all on the students. We don’t want to see either of those scenarios play out.”
That’s when Kent School saw the potential of BILL Spend & Expense.
Before BILL Spend & Expense, Kent School manually processed reimbursement requests and then paid employees via ACH deposits through Paymerang. They did not have a direct purchasing card program in place. After implementing BILL Spend & Expense, each advisor now has his/her own purchasing card.
“Each advisor has between three and eight advisees.” Tanya adds that each advisor gets an allowance every year to have coffee or meals with their advisees.
“Pre-BILL Spend & Expense, they were expected to spend their own money, save the receipts, and then submit for reimbursement the costs that they incurred in support of the advisory program. Now they are making those purchases directly and saving themselves the administrative burden.”
Torrey looks forward to his advisor gatherings every Friday, when he takes his group into town for breakfast. “It’s nice because it’s the end of the week and what I love to do is buy my advisory breakfast. There’s a really cool little coffee shop in town called Wilson’s, and we all enjoy celebrating the end of the week there.”
Before Kent School’s advisors had their own BILL Divvy Corporate Cards, empowering them to make purchases directly, the idea that it took spending their own money to be a successful advisor was going against who these teachers are. “They’re teachers for a reason,” said Torrey.
“They are truly a special breed to be teachers, to honor that calling, and so, that’s absolutely not what we wanted. Now, the BILL Spend & Expense solution allows them to tap into why they became teachers in the first place… Here’s a vehicle where you can be a really effective and successful advisor so it’s not a burden.”
Now, more than 100 advisors have their own BILL Divvy Corporate Cards to spend on the students and are no longer out their own money, they don’t have to incur the burden of preparing the expense reimbursement requests, keeping and attaching receipts, and then waiting to get reimbursed.
Best of all, for teachers like Torrey who wear multiple hats, he can easily manage all of his spending on BILL Spend & Expense’s mobile app. “I have a budget for my office of Equity, Inclusion & Diversity, and I also have an advisory budget. The BILL Spend & Expense app makes it really easy to use my card for stuff related to my office or to buy breakfast for my advisees, and then I can sort it all out in the app.
“For me, it’s super helpful to have that one card for both things. It makes doing the job easier, which allows me to focus my attention on other things.”
Another big, and rather unique, initiative that Tanya and Torrey were excited to bring BILL Spend & Expense on for is the Student Experience Fund.
“At Kent, we have students from widely different socioeconomic statuses. We have students who, in order to attend Kent, need significant financial support. We recognize that the cost to attend Kent doesn’t just include tuition and fees. There are other aspects of being a student here, such as buying food at the snack bar, going out to dinner in the town of Kent, or buying team apparel. We know there is much more to the overall student experience, and we want each student at Kent, regardless of their means, to have that full experience.”
Before implementing BILL Spend & Expense, any student who needed supplemental financial support would go into the financial aid office to request money. Torrey notes this puts pressure on these students and creates a power imbalance. “First, you have to out yourself as needing more financial support. Secondly, depending on what you’re even asking for, it’s almost as if you have to have permission to do something. It’s like you’re not just asking for the money, you’re also asking for permission to do it because without the money, you can’t do it.”
By utilizing BILL Spend & Expense for Kent School’s Student Experience Fund, all of that has nearly disappeared. Based on their level of need, students can qualify for $500 per term on their BILL Divvy Corporate Cards through the Student Experience Fund and an additional $500 if they are seniors. These cards enable all students to have a more complete Kent School experience.
“We consider the ‘Kent experience’ to not be limited to what happens on campus. We are fortunate to be located in a very rural area where the town of Kent is just a five minute walk. So just as much of the experience is being able to go to the grocery store and buy snacks, or go out to dinner with your friends. We are committed to providing as complete an experience as possible.”
Finding a tool like BILL Spend & Expense has brought so much more to Kent School than just eliminating their paper checks and out of pocket expenses. From a business perspective, Tanya says BILL Spend & Expense has made everyone’s lives easier.
“If you work in a business office where you subscribe to the idea that [your] role is to make the faculty’s lives easier and therefore, by extension, the students’ lives better, then BILL Spend & Expense is absolutely a tool to be able to accomplish that.”
For Torrey, making the switch to BILL Spend & Expense was a mission-aligned decision. “BILL Spend & Expense is a great tool as it puts all of our students on an even playing field from a financial perspective.”
“It’s really hard to put into words what this has meant in terms of agency and self-esteem for these students. For the school to believe in them, not just give them the money, but to give them the agency to do what they want and for them to feel like we trust them intrinsically is really, really powerful.”