FOREST CITY — A March 25 legislative forum was the first at the newly-renamed Waldorf University.
President Bob Alsop asked Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, and Reps. Terry Baxter, R-Garner, and Tedd Gassman, R-Scarville, if they would support increasing the Iowa Tuition Grant for institutions like Waldorf.
The grant is to entice Iowa students to stay in the state. It is around $6,000 for non-profit private colleges and $1,850 for for-profit schools like Waldorf, Alsop said.
Waldorf is a terrific value to students, Alsop said, adding the school is among the lowest in tuition rates in the state.
Even so, some students pick other institutions because they can qualify for the higher Iowa Tuition Grant amounts there, he said.
“I’m wondering what can be done to provide more equity,” Alsop said.
Gassman recommended Alsop talk to Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, who is on the House Education Committee.
Baxter said he is disappointed in the disparity between colleges in Iowa, especially between the Regents schools and community colleges.
“We need to quit picking winners and losers,” he said. “We need reform on the whole issue. "I’m not sure where to go but feel we need to open up the conversation.”
The conversation, Alsop said, should be about the students.
“We need to compete with the private institutions on an even playing field. It’s ultimately about the students and what’s in the students’ best interest,” Alsop said.
Another topic was raised by a member of the audience, Claudia Tillman, who wanted to know where the legislators stood on legalizing medical cannabis.
She said her adult daughter has ulcerative colitis and the last option to treat it no longer works.
“She, along with so many others, they beg you to help” by legalizing medical cannabis, Tillman said.
While Baxter said he is sympathetic to those needing medical cannabis, he said he has problems with the legalization process. Guth and Gassman agreed.
The problem, Guth and Gassman said, comes from marijuana still being a Schedule I drug. Drugs on that list either have a high potential for abuse or have no currently accepted medical use in the U.S., according to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
“If we produced it in Iowa as a Schedule I drug, that’s against federal law,” Gassman said.
Baxter said medical cannabis would first need to be moved down to a Schedule II drug before it can be legally prescribed by doctors.
He has signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration encouraging the move from Schedule I to II.
But Gassman said he had problems with expanding medical cannabis use in Iowa.
"I do not want to grow marijuana in Iowa," he said.