The compensation scandal centering on New York University loaning millions of dollars to select faculty and administrators for vacation homes purchases is simply the latest symptom of college bureaucratic excess.

Kevin Kiley of Inside Higher Ed puts the story into a larger, and more troubling, context:

But the revelation this week that the university provided large loans with often-favorable terms to particular employees, including Sexton, to help them purchase vacation homes might be different.

News outlets picked up the story with a rabidity typically reserved for college sports scandals. The online magazine Slate said “NYU Neatly Embodies Everything Wrong with Higher Education in America.” Numerous outlets have tied the practice to the large loan burdens with which many NYU students graduate. Even Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a regular defender of presidential compensation, said NYU’s practice might be a little excessive. “I think you have to be able to pass a red-face test,” he told The New York Times.

“The idea that even a small portion of [students’] loan payments is directly funding the Fire Island getaways of the school’s well-paid faculty and administrators is the kind of picture that NYU probably wants to avoid,” The Atlantic Wire wrote Tuesday.

While the public has shown a high tolerance for many executive perks, including steep compensation, modest presidential housing, some travel expenses and cars — which institutions often argue are necessary for presidents to do their jobs properly — many tend to draw a line at a certain level of extravagance. For higher education institutions and other nonprofits, the idea that a university is spending beyond what is necessary – with the bill falling on tuition-paying students or federal and state governments – can generate significant ill will.

Costly renovations of presidents’ houses, maintenance of a university-owned yacht and the purchase of multiple residences all became symbols of excess that captured the public imagination and led to past presidential firings or resignations. And such symbols have often proven more problematic than pay packages whose value can greatly exceed the value of the luxury benefits provided.

Giving loans to employees is not a new practice, nor is NYU the only institution that regularly engages in the practice. Oftentimes such loans are made to help individuals relocate to expensive areas, and institutions such as Boston University, Pepperdine University and Butler University have all at some point provided loans to employees.