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Reilly announces he’ll step down as UW System president

President Kevin Reilly speaks at the UW System Board of Regents meeting in October at UW-Stout. (Submitted photo)

University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly announced this afternoon that he is leaving his post at the end of this year.

Reilly, 63, said he is leaving to advise the American Council on Education, which represents the presidents of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions and advocates on federal policy debates.

Earlier today, Gov. Scott Walker confirmed the move to reporters in Milwaukee after the Wisconsin State Journal broke the story.

Walker said Reilly told him just recently about his decision. When he completes the national role, Walker said, Reilly plans to go into semi-retirement and teach.

Reilly has spent almost nine years as the head of the 26-campus UW system.

It’s been a rough-and-tumble year for Reilly and the UW after reports that a payroll computer glitch initially overpaid $33 million in benefits to university employees.

In April, we learned that UW campuses sat on $650 million in reserves at a time when tuition was going up 5.5% a year for the last six years. That angered lawmakers so much that they froze the university’s tuition for two years.

However, former Regents president Brent Smith told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the controversies had nothing to do with Reilly’s departure. Smith said that Reilly simply thought it was time to do something else.

“Kevin has been a tireless advocate for the effort to graduate more Wisconsin residents from our universities,” said UW-Stout Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen.

“Kevin’s legacy within the UW System will be the increased number of Wisconsin residents who are living better and more productive lives because of the education they received during his tenure.”

Sorenson added, “I also applaud Kevin’s work to give campuses more ability to operate independently within the UW System structure. We have made great strides in this area, but there is more to be done.

“Finally, Kevin has worked with the Legislature and the governor’s office to secure more flexibilities for the UW System and the campuses in how we operate financially and in other areas. This is critical as we try to meet the demand for more graduates and as we watch our state resources shrink.”