University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly announced he would leave his post after a spring of contentious debate over reserve funds and tuition increases.

However, Reilly, who is leaving for a position on the American Council on Education, said his decision to leave was a gradual decision and not influenced by legislative pressure.

During the press conference regarding his resignation, Reilly said he experienced many hardships due to the “overheated partisanship” of the political culture, in addition to experiencing financial difficulties because of the economic recession.

However, after Reilly’s announcement, Joint Finance Committee Co-chairs Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said in a statement that Reilly’s departure is “an exciting opportunity” that allows for the UW System “to start a new chapter.”

Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who serves as chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, said Reilly’s new position at ACE is “ironic.”

“It’s interesting with all the challenges that he has had that he is going to be hired to advise on leadership issues in terms of higher education,” Mikalsen said. “There is humor in that.”

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard Telfer is set to replace Reilly as interim chancellor starting Jan. 1. A national search is underway for a candidate.

During Reilly’s term as president, Reilly said enrollment and graduation rates increased, as did the number of non-traditional and transfer students.

Reilly was also part of the UW Flexible Option degree program roll out, which began this fall to address the 74 percent of Wisconsin adults that do not have a college degree.