I would not be where I am today if it were not for the UW System. This month I will earn my diploma from UW-Eau Claire, becoming the first in my family to graduate from a four-year college. I am also concluding one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, serving on the UW System Board of Regents.

In 2017, Gov. Scott Walker offered me the great honor of serving a two-year term on the Board of Regents, representing the voices of more than 170,000 students across the UW System. Along with serving as chairman of the Wisconsin College Republicans, this experience gave me the opportunity to meet with many of my peers around the state and to better understand Wisconsin’s needs and how the UW System is working to meet them.

As a finance major at UW-Eau Claire, as well as a fiscal conservative, I often scrutinize the return on public investments. That is why I love talking about what an invaluable investment the UW System is for the state of Wisconsin and taxpayers. A recent economic impact study by Northstar Analytics found that investing in our UW System provides a 23-to-1 return.

The UW System is a powerful economic driver and an exceptional talent pipeline for employers. Like most of my peers, I already have a job lined up in my field. A UW degree also helps to provide opportunities for families to have higher wages — the average lifetime earnings of bachelor’s degree holders are as much as $1 million more than non-degree holders.

Like many Wisconsin residents who are the first in their families to attend college, I know firsthand how the UW System changes lives with the opportunities we offer students. In my time at UW-Eau Claire, I had the good fortune to participate in UW-Eau Claire’s Student Managed Investment Fund, a program that allows students to actively manage a portfolio of stocks. I used high-tech software to research companies and determine if they would be a good investment — exactly the kind of research that is being done by Wall Street analysts. I am very grateful the UW System offered me this important experience. There are many similar stories of invaluable opportunities provided by the system in every field and in every profession.

From my time on the Board of Regents, I know the UW System is committed to ensuring it remains accessible, competitive and accountable. That’s important to students and the state. Without our public universities, the people of Wisconsin would lose the innovation and research so critical to improving all of our lives.

It can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of what the UW System offers to Wisconsin. After the last several years, I now have a much better understanding, and it is clear to me the UW System is invaluable in meeting Wisconsin’s most pressing needs. Reinvesting in the UW System is what we need to build a brighter future for all Wisconsinites.

Ring, a Green Bay native, will graduate Saturday from UW-Eau Claire.