Lauren Maloney, a senior biomedical engineering major from Plymouth, Massachusetts, has accomplished a great deal in her three years at Stony Brook University, including starting a club for out-of-state students.

“My high school guidance counselor couldn’t understand why I gave up Cornell [University] to come here,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier with that decision.”

“My first semester was so different from what I was used to,” Maloney added. “I didn’t know a single person. There was no support system.”

Maloney said she was lucky to have met a few people through the Women in Science and Engineering program. “A lot of people don’t have that.”

She recognized this problems students have in meeting others, and in her sophomore year, she and friends she met in classes—who were also from Massachusetts—formed a club.

“Amanda gave us the idea,” Maloney said, referring to Assistant Director of Admissions Amanda Mills, who is the advisor and recruiter for students from Massachusetts.

According to Maloney, she recommended forming a club so the group could use campus resources, have a space to meet and possibly receive funding. Currently, the club does not receive funding from the Undergraduate Student Government, but they are recognized by the Student Activities Board.

The group, known at the Out-of-State Student Association (OOSSA), started in Fall 2009 with 25 members. Two years later, it has grown to 150, about 15 percent of the out-of-state student population.

“You feel less far from home with people who know how it feels,” Maloney said.

According to SUNY’s website, 5.6 percent of students attending a SUNY school are from a different state. That’s 12, 339 students spread out across the 64 campuses.

At Stony Brook, the amount is 6 percent. Maloney believes that number is growing and that “the admissions department is interested in growing it further.” The number of out-of-state students enrolled at Stony Brook increased by 16 percent from the Fall 2009 semester to the Fall 2010 semester.

Stephanie Morris, a California native double-majoring in women and gender studies and sociology, chose Stony Brook in part because she saw the OOSSA on the list of clubs and “knew I could get involved here.”

“The Admissions Department is using [OOSSA] as a reason to come here,” Maloney said. She is happy with that because it allows the organization to reach more out-of-state students who can use the help, particularly freshmen.

“I am excited to watch OOSSA become an increasingly more important part of the University for new and continuing out-of-state and New York state students,” Mills said in an email. She is currently travelling in Massachusetts, where she spends about seven weeks in the fall visiting high schools.

The Admissions Department sends out postcards from the OOSSA welcoming incoming freshmen. The department also funded a recent trip to the city for OOSSA members to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

Similar organizations exist across the U.S., but there is no national equivalent to the OOSSA. Maloney feels it would be a good idea if there were because it would help create a standard for activities or ways to help students.

The Stony Brook OOSSA mainly tries to get students involved and help them meet other people. “The best way to have a good experience [in college] is to get involved,” Maloney said.

Since the recession, many states have cut funding to public universities, in turn causing tuition increases, particularly for out-of-state students, who generate more revenue because they generally pay at least twice as much for tuition.

With the passage of NYSUNY 2020, in-state students at SUNY university centers will see an increase of $300 for the next five years, while out-of-state students face an increase of up to 10 percent. That’s over $1,000 per year.

“Everything offered at Stony Brook is a phenomenal deal,” Maloney said. “Even raising the tuition, it’s still a phenomenal education. Very few other places can offer that.”

Others are less enthusiastic. “The tuition increase doesn’t sit well with me,” said Michael Seminara, a sophomore comparative literature major from Lawrenceville, Georgia. “It will probably leave me with so much debt that I’ll never pay it off with any job in Georgia.”

Maloney also co-founded a sailing team at Stony Brook with Rachel Berger and Kyle Buescher. “It’s like a tradition,” she said with a laugh. “OOSSA sophomore year, sailing team junior year. I feel like I should be starting another club.”

There is the question of what will happen to the clubs she has founded once Maloney leaves in May. “I’ve tried to make [OOSSA] self-sustainable,” she said. “My worst fear is to have it crumble.”

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