BEMIDJI -- The close-to-home topic of college affordability for students and a few national issues were brought up at a Republican town hall event at BSU Thursday.
The event, a co-effort by the BSU Young Republicans and Beltrami County Republicans, featured four state legislators from the area. Guests included District 2 and 5 Sens. Paul Utke, Park Rapids and Justin Eichorn, Grand Rapids, as well as District 2A and 2B Reps. Matt Grossell, Clearbrook and Steve Green, Fosston.
A topic bringing several views from the town hall's panel was on college tuition and whether or not governments should take action to make higher education free.
"Anything given away today has to be paid for eventually," Green said. "If they did free college, you'd see a flood of people coming in who maybe have no business in college. I have no regrets saying that because college wasn't for me, i went to a vocational school."
In his comments, Eichorn said, "Giving college away for free would devalue education and could also exasperate the issues we're seeing in workforce shortages." As part of his answer on the topic, Utke said he and his colleagues are aware something must be done.
"We do know there's a problem with affordable tuition," Utke said. "We need to make sure we are as efficient as possible. We have to streamline and be efficient at all levels. We need to be so our taxpayer dollars are used efficiently in getting to the students."
In discussing the concept of free college, Grossell made a point on those who are members of the armed forces and said, "even if you serve in the military, it's not free. You're giving four, to six, to eight years of your life to earn college tuition."
Another subject with questions directed to the legislators on whether or not to adjust laws related to guns. In his answer, Utke said the debate has less to do with the weapon and more to do with the individual using it.
"The tool has not changed, it's the people," Utke said. "So we have to address the real problem. It's the individuals. We have mental health issues today. We have family issues today. And we have people not growing up around guns and getting the proper training."
When asked about their positions on abortion, all four legislators said they were against it. In his response, Green called abortion "a horrible stain on our society."
"We're wondering why people have no value of life when we look at these things, yet from the time people are young now all they're hearing is abortion," Green said. "There seems to be no value of life. And where is God? We're afraid to say the name of God, we've taken it out of our schools. So without believing that life is precious, if we lose that, we're in a lot of trouble."
Thursday's town hall comes just about a week before another one on the opposite side of the political spectrum. At 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is holding its own town hall. Guests include District 5A Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. The event will take place at the Bemidji Public Library, 509 America Ave. NW.