Enrollment Leaders Convene in DC for RNLNC 2022: Key Highlights

Jennifer WardDirector, National Conferences and EventsJuly 21, 2022
RNLNC 2022: Keynote session by Daniel Pink
More than 1,000 campus professionals joined us for the 2022 RNL National Conference.

July 14 kicked off our 36th annual RNL National Conference, and our first in-person event in three years. More than 1,000 enrollment and student success professionals joined us at the Gaylord National Resort across the Potomac from Washington, DC. Here are some highlights from this gathering of enrollment and student success changemakers.

RNLNC keynote speakers focused on the “why” of making a difference for students, and key transformations in higher education

RNL President and CEO Sumit Nijhawan at the RNLNC 2022
RNL’s Sumit Nijhawan delivered insights on four learning personas.

RNL CEO Sumit Nijhawan shared the four V’s of Volume, Variety, Veracity, and Velocity that are crucial to our work with students. Despite a demographic “cliff” and challenging economy, higher education still has tremendous demand and with new technology and strategic planning, institutions are transforming to meet the needs of a changing population.

Byron Pitts, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline, shared how we can bridge the gap of our differences and overcome diversity through personal connections. Byron’s personal story of overcoming personal adversity and anecdotes of listening to Americans from all walks of life was inspiring and resonates with what we do to build connections in our daily work.

Best-selling author and social science researcher Daniel Pink shared some key insights from his most recent book, The Power of Regret. The top regrets that he heard from thousands of people in his research are not being bold, taking a risk, or speaking up when they had the chance. There’s something there for us as we have the opportunity to transform the lives of students and families in the shifting world of higher education.

Study Hall: Video series from Arizona State University and Crash Course
Phil Regier shared innovations such as Study Hall, a partnership with ASU and Crash Course

Phil Regier, university dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus at Arizona State University, shared what ASU has learned from growing online enrollment to 58,000 students. Phil reminded us that the global demand for higher education is in the billions, and institutions who can lean into key market needs like STEM while adapting quality in-person services to offer a truly excellent online experience can help meet this demand and grow.

Kindra Hall, strategic storyteller and best-selling author, also closed out the conference with an energetic and inspiring session on telling your story. She gave the attendees a wealth of advice on how they can tell their institutional stories more effectively to their prospective and current students. She was the perfect person to close three days of insights, innovation, and inspiration.

RNLNC 2022 Exhibit Hall
The Exhibit Hall was a great place to see the latest higher ed innovations, network with colleagues, and get a much needed snack!

Key RNLNC session topics focused on strategic enrollment planning, leading change in a challenging environment, a focus on student success and inclusion

RNLNC 2022 session presentation
Sessions were presented by campus professionals, nationally-renowned authorities, and RNL experts.

The 2022 RNLNC had more than 120 sessions to choose from, giving our attendees plenty of choices for sessions to attend—in fact, they mentioned that they sometimes had a hard time choosing from all the available sessions. Here were just a few of the key topics:

  • Strategic enrollment planning is always a key topic at the conference, helping institutions align their fiscal, academic, co-curricular, and enrollment resources with their changing environment. With the shifting demographics and economic challenges today, it has become more important than ever. RNL’s SEP leader Dr. Lew Sanborne and the RNL team talked about key SEP steps and shared that we will be releasing a new edition of our SEP book this fall.
  • David Lawrence from Michigan Tech reminded us that data is key to recruitment, student success, and the lifetime relationship we have with our graduates.
  • Enrollment leaders are navigating unprecedented challenges and change. Danielle Carnes from Edmonds College provided key advice for leaders. “You can either be the disruptor, or the disrupted,” she reminded us.
  • Student aid optimization and service will be crucial in the coming enrollment cycles as families navigate uncertainty and record inflation. Ann Cools and Beth Davenport provided guidance on key aid changes, the Student Aid Index, and what we can do to maximize affordability and access. A key theme in the aid-focused sessions was doing a better job proactively communicating with students early about aid options.
  • And of course, student success is the heart of higher education and a key focus of the conference. The conference is also a great place for younger campus professionals to learn from experienced practitioners, which is why our Retention for Rookies session is always popular (and led by RNL’s Dr. Sherri Erkel this year.

Graduate and online education are booming, which is why RNL added a dedicated track to these topics

As Sumit noted in his opening remarks, there has been a 47 percent increase in online student enrollment since 2019 according to NCES data, while in-class enrollment has declined by 19 percent in that same time frame. Graduate enrollment has also seen an increase even during the pandemic. That’s why RNL devoted a track graduate and online enrollment on topics such as:

From keynote sessions to breakouts, a consistent theme was the concern that we’ve given up key resources by giving up control to costly OPMs to implement online programs. This has become even more important after the House Appropriations Committee Report that the committee “is how tuition-sharing agreements between universities and for-profit OPM companies can create perverse incentives that drive up costs, waste taxpayer dollars, and rip off students.” I am sure given the importance and changes to online enrollment, this will be another in-demand conference track in 2023.

Thanks to those who joined us, and you can register for the 2023 conference now!

RNLNC 2022 Gaylord Wheel in RNL colors
Seeing the wheel at the Gaylord in our RNL colors was a wonderful sight at night.

One thing was clear: after two years of virtual interaction, being in person was energizing to the attendees. I have managed the RNL National Conference for nearly 20 years, and the enthusiasm of the attendees this year was the highest I have ever seen. All of us at RNL greatly appreciate everyone who took the time and effort to come to Washington, D.C.

We also have registrations open for next year! RNLNC 2023 will be July 25-27 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville (the site of our 2019 conference). Register today for another great gathering of enrollment leaders.

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About the Author

Jennifer Ward

Jennifer Ward has extensive experience in event planning, management, and execution. She oversees all events and conferences for RNL, including the RNL National Conference, Strategic Enrollment Planning Executive Forum, and and RNL's workshops for enrollment....

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