Nancy Cantor, who has served as Syracuse University's chancellor since 2004, will resign when her contract ends in June 2014, she announced on Friday.
Ms. Cantor's tenure has been tumultous at times, but her announcement comes near the conclusion of a successful capital campaign, which has raised more than $1-billion.
In a written statement, Ms. Cantor acknowledged that Syracuse struggles, along with all of higher education, to maintain affordability and quality at a time of diminishing resources.
"The messages about higher education today in the media and in public-opinion polls are certainly mixed at best, and on some days dismal," Ms. Cantor's statement reads. "Families rightly worry about escalating costs and debt, students struggle to get to college and then to get a foothold in the job market, communities worry that we've forgotten them, and nations around the globe want our collaborative, not competitive, hand to be extended further. That is precisely why I look at what we are doing at Syracuse and I see how relevant we are, how we aren't shying away from those critiques but instead figuring out how to be good institutional citizens in a difficult and constrained world."
In the statement Ms. Cantor did not say what she planned to do next.
Ms. Cantor won praise for her efforts to help revitalize the university's surrounding community, but some critics said she did so at the expense of building the university's prestige. During her tenure, Syracuse dropped in national rankings and left the prestigious Association of American Universities rather than be forced out.
Ms. Cantor came to Syracuse with an impressive administrative pedigree, having served as provost of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and then as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Last year was a particularly tumultuous period for Syracuse. Bernie Fine, associate head men's basketball coach, faced allegations that he had molested three boys. Ms. Cantor initially warned of an "unfair rush to judgment" about Mr. Fine, but the coach was dismissed when the third accuser came forward.
"Those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded," Ms. Cantor said at the time. Mr. Fine has denied wrongdoing amid a continuing federal investigation.