Bench has been granted his release and will depart Penn State after completing the spring semester, which ends May 3.
"I mean, it's been a hard decision," Bench said Wednesday. "I was sold on Penn State since the day I got an offer, since the day they called, really. I just wish it would've worked out. I still love this place and I wish it didn't come to this, but I have to make the best choice for me. And I think the best thing for me to be successful is to not play at Penn State and to play elsewhere."
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said he would help Bench in any way he could.
"I have been meeting with all the players this week with my evaluation of where they are at related to football and academics and to discuss what they need to work on this summer," O'Brien said in a prepared statement. "After meeting with Steven, he informed me he wants to play elsewhere. We want what is best for Steven. I want to thank him for his contributions to the program. We wish Steven the best in the future and will assist him anyway we can."
A team spokesman confirmed to ESPN.com that it was Bench's decision to leave and that there are no disciplinary or academic problems involved.
Bench and junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson competed throughout the spring for the top job. They both participated in Saturday's Blue-White Game. Bench completed 9 of 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Ferguson had identical passing numbers (9 of 15).
O'Brien said after the game that he was not close to deciding on a starter. Decorated quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg arrives this summer.
Bench said he left his meeting with O'Brien under the impression he was behind Ferguson on the depth chart.
"It's out of my control, but I wasn't happy with it," Bench said. "I'm a competitor, so I'm not going to agree with that decision. But, at the same time, it's his decision and it's out of my control. I feel that it kind of left me no choice. I don't want to back anyone up. I want to play. I came here to play football."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bench backed up Matt McGloin in 2012 and appeared in two games, completing 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards and rushing for 18 yards.
Bench wrote, "What did I do to deserve this?" and "Always swimming upstream" on his Twitter page Wednesday.
Bench can transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision program without having to sit out a year because of the transfer policies the NCAA granted to all Penn State players after imposing sanctions on the program in July.
Bench said a number of schools already have contacted him but declined to list any specifically.