TAMPA, Fla. -- Nelson Larzabal Ruiz has big plans – the University of South Florida pre-med student plans on becoming a surgeon.

  • USF named top public university for Latino students
  • Also one of top performers in black student success
  • Ruiz one of many Latino USF students ready to make difference

He moved to Tampa from Havana, Cuba just five years ago and jumped right into things at Leto High School.

"Back when I was in high school, many (college) recruiters went to my high school," Ruiz said.

That's how he decided he wanted to attend USF.

The junior is an outstanding scholar -- a testament to USF recently being named the top public university for Latino student success, according to a study done by The Education Trust.

"It takes a long time to become a student success university," said Paul Atchley, Dean of Undergraduate Studies. "You have to invest, you have to have lots of people that care about it, and eventually everyone starts to see how it affects students, and they all get on board."

Atchley credits it to school leadership, who have been pushing to prioritize student success for more than a decade.

Nationally, 53.6 percent of Latino students finish college, compared to 63.3 percent of white students.

At USF, that rate is 13 percent higher, closing the completion gap. 

"This is a university where it’s not just about one group, but it's about lifting everyone up. We believe every student we bring in will graduate, and we treat every student as if they will be successful," Atchley said.

This isn't the first time USF has been recognized for student success. Prior to this, The Education Trust named it one of the top performers in black student success.

"It's a rough path for Latinos coming to this country, so being able to pursue higher education, it's a great opportunity really for anyone but especially for the Latino population," Ruiz said.