Are college presidents overpaid?

As college costs soar beyond the reach of more and more families, there's one group of people who aren't feeling the pinch: university presidents.

One-third of presidents at public universities now earn over $500,000 per year and the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the median compensation for public college presidents was $427,400 for the 2007-08 school year. Private college presidents earned about $100,000 more than that. Ohio State University's president took home more than $1.3 million.

But the feeding at the trough isn't limited to university presidents. 94 of Massachusetts' 100 highest-paid state employees work for the University of Massachusetts, which recently proposed a 15% tuition hike for next year -- although the school's trustees had the decency to delay voting on it.

Whether university presidents are overpaid is a matter of considerable debate, and it's certainly hard to quantify. But I have to ask: What exactly do these people do that creates so much value? Universities are generally lumbering behemoths full of special interest groups and bureaucracy that make it impossible for any one individual to really affect great change. That makes it hard to understand why it's smart to pay so much for college presidents.

Zac Bissonnette is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and an expert on getting a great education without going broke.