Patrick speaks to area students

The “Town Hall with Deval” event was hosted by Students for Deval, a statewide group led by Tufts University student Mitchell Robinson, on Monday at Boston University.,Two members of the Emerson Democrats were among the 86 local college students who gathered Tuesday at Boston University to meet Deval Patrick, a democrat who is campaigning for his party’s nomination for governor of Massachusetts next year.

The “Town Hall with Deval” event was hosted by Students for Deval, a statewide group led by Tufts University student Mitchell Robinson, on Monday at Boston University. Patrick fielded questions from the almost entirely student audience about issues such as the narrow base for educational funding and job prospects for college graduates.

“[Massachusetts is] the only state in America to have lost people in the last year,” Patrick told the audience.

According to a January article in The Christian Science Monitor, Massachusetts was the only state in the country to experience a decrease in population from July 2003 to July 2004, with more than 3,800 residents moving away.

Many residents, especially young people, leave the state because of the high cost of housing and lack of job opportunities, Patrick said. As a result, he said, “we are losing our future.”

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Senior organizational and political communication major Samantha King, president of the Emerson Democrats, said her group attended the event because the forum allowed them to get to know Patrick’s campaign issues.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to see a promising Democratic candidate,” said King, who is also vice president of the Student Government Association.

The Emerson Democrats cannot endorse Patrick because the group does not support one Democratic candidate over another.

Yet, King said Patrick was a promising contender for the governor’s seat.

Patrick explained his views on education, health care and the essential role of government, and answered questions about issues like alternative energy, parental notification about abortion and affordable housing.

Massachusetts is ranked as the 47th state in spending for higher education, Patrick said, and he would make higher education spending a priority.

“Education is so critical to people being able to move forward,” Patrick said.

He said that he would strive to build the capacity of state higher educational facilities so that schools do not have to raise tuition or costs.

One member of the Emerson Democrats, sophomore organizational and political communication major Matt Luby, said he went into the event favoring Democratic front-runner and Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, but after hearing Patrick speak and respond to questions from the audience, Luby is “now 50/50, if not in favor of Patrick.”

“I really took to heart his comment about not supporting someone just because they are not Republican,” Luby said. “I’ve really been impressed by him.”