University of South Florida (USF) courses may be available to residents of the North Suncoast and North Pinellas as soon as this fall. USF President Frank Borkowski said Tuesday the university would work with St. Petersburg Junior College (SPJC) and Pasco-Hernando Community College to make upper division college courses available.
The first classes offered would be continuing education classes for teachers, Borkowski said.
A likely location could be a portable classroom on the SPJC Tarpon Springs campus.
At a luncheon meeting at the Holiday Inn on Ulmerton Road in Pinellas County, Borkowski told a group of educators and civic leaders who have been trying for two years to establish a USF branch somewhere in the North Suncoast area that the university is aware of the need to offer upper division courses in the area.
But with the state's education system in the throes of financial hard times, establishing another USF branch in Pinellas County currently is out of the question.
State Sen. Curt Kiser, R-Palm Harbor, said Tuesday he is optimistic something can be worked out. "The big problem of course is there is just no money."
State Rep. R. Z. "Sandy" Safley, R-Clearwater, suggested USF acquire fiber optic cable from a power company and offer classes by television at a location in the Oldsmar-East Lake area. That way, a Tampa-based professor could lecture students via television monitors.
"There are a lot of shopping centers and office complexes out there that could be used for a modest price," Safley said.
Pinellas County schools Superintendent Howard Hinesley had offered USF the use of a new high school likely to be built in the Palm Harbor area sometime in the mid-1990s.
But Borkowski said in a letter to Kiser it would be "more beneficial to enhance our existing relationships with other institutions of higher education."
Hinesley, who also attended the meeting Tuesday, said Borkowski's decision "is all right with us."
Hinesley said he would continue to serve on the volunteer task force until upper division college classes are taking place somewhere in the North Pinellas or West Pasco area.