Even as endowments tanked, employees were laid off, and tuition bills were hiked in the face of decimated 401(k)s and home values, the presidents of the "top" (whatever that means) private college and universities in the United States still managed to take home 6.5% more cash in 2008 than they did in 2007.

Take a look at the list of the highest paid college presidents:

Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - $1,598,247
David J. Sargent, Suffolk University -- $1,496,593
Steadman Upham, University of Tulsa -- $1,428,275
Richard S. Meyers, Webster University -- $1,429,738

It's hard for me to imagine why anyone should get $1,598,247 for running Hartford, CT-based Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Given that school's student body of just 5,394 undergraduates, that works out to nearly $300 per student flowing directly into the pocket of the president. Perhaps that explains the 2009-2010 sticker price of $39,165 -- and the fact that 70% of students graduate with an average of $30,375 in debt -- nearly 50% higher than the national average among college graduates.

Look, I don't doubt that these college presidents provide value to the schools they work at -- mainly in the form of fundraising. But at a time when so many of their students are struggling and debt loads are ballooning, it would be nice to see them take a break from pay increases. Sadly, that didn't happen.

On reason that large colleges -- especially public colleges -- generally offer a good deal is that administrative costs scale well: A school with 10 times as many students will generally have far lower per capita administrative costs.

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