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Mom petitions for USF campus

When Anna Calleri's son, Michael, had problems in public school, Calleri tried to win election to the Hernando County School Board so she could change education.

Now, Michael faces obstacles in getting to college, so Calleri wants to bring college to him.

If the University of South Florida in Tampa would open a Hernando campus, Calleri is sure hundreds of students from Hernando, Pasco, Citrus and Sumter counties would attend.

She has started a petition drive to prove her point.

"The reason why I started it is, the need is here," she said. "My daughter goes to PHCC (Pasco-Hernando Community College) and my son goes to PHCC. One had a child and the other one is handicapped. He doesn't have transportation to get to these colleges and universities away from home."

If USF opens a campus in Hernando, her children and other students "don't have to go all the way to Tampa," she said. That would save money on gas and living expenses, she said.

But a letter from a university official suggests that Calleri's request for an off-site campus will not be granted easily.

"An arrangement of the sort you suggest . . . may be possible in the long term, but there are no plans for such an arrangement in the foreseeable future," G. G. Meisels, the provost and chief operating officer at USF, said in a June 4 letter to Calleri.

Meisels said USF offers some courses off campus, but does not promote the practice because it is so expensive.

Setting up a permanent off-campus site "requires the approval by the Board of Regents as part of the state university system five-year master planning process," Meisels said.

The provost said the university considers offering an off-campus class if interested communities can "demonstrate and document the needs" for such a class.

"There is no indication that there is sufficient demand in your area at this time," Meisels said.

But Calleri is not discouraged.

She has put petitions in the public libraries in Hernando County.

"The need is here," she said. "The population is adequate to support a four-year, off-site campus."

Calleri says her son will not be able to travel to Tampa to complete a four-year degree.

Without a college campus here, Michael will finish school when he graduates from PHCC in another 18 months, she said.

"They got a year and a half to educate my son," she said. "If he doesn't work, you're going to pay for him the rest of his life. If that's what you want, fine with me.

"But, I don't think it's fair to him."