The president of the University of Louisiana system will step down from that post early next year.

Sandra Woodley, who has led the nine-university system since 2013, didn’t provide a specific reason in the resignation letter she submitted to the system’s governing board.

“Next year will be a critical time for higher education, and securing the next leader as soon as possible will be important,” she wrote. “To that end, I offer this letter of resignation to the board to ensure a smooth and productive transition.”

Woodley’s resignation is effective Dec. 31, but in her letter, she offers to remain on board in a transitional capacity through March 15.

In a statement, UL system board of supervisors Chairman Gerald “T-Boy” Hebert thanked Woodley for “three years of dedicated service.”

“We would also like to acknowledge her tireless efforts in guiding our system through the challenges of a very difficult budget climate for higher education. We wish Dr. Woodley the best in her future endeavors and thank her again for her hard work in leading our system through very difficult times,” he said.

State Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo said he thinks Woodley was ready to move on to other endeavors.

“From what I gather, she’s looking to the next stage and opportunity,” he said.

Woodley’s departure will mean two of the state’s four college systems will have new leadership heading into the 2016 legislative session.

But Rallo said he doesn’t believe the transition will be difficult, and he expects higher education leaders will work together, no matter who succeeds Woodley.

“We work very hard to make sure that higher education speaks with that unified voice,” he said. “That’s where the power comes from. It’s a message coming from all of us.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .