It's nice work if you can quit it. An article from yesterday's New York Times goes into the shameful and mysterious phenomenon that is New York University's bloated financial gifts to people who willingly resign from the school. There was, for instance, Jacob Lew, a former NYU executive vice president (and the new Treasury Secretary), who got almost $700,000 after leaving NYU and joining Citigroup in 2006. After Lew came Harold Koplewicz, the psychiatrist who quit the NYU Medical Center on his own accord and yet was still paid a $1.2 million lump sum in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Both NYU and Koplewicz refused to talk to the Times about the seven-figure payment. The Times also reports that John Sexton, NYU's current president, will continue to receive $800,000 a year after he steps down from his post.

Other former NYU employees are still benefitting from their time at NYU not from cash payouts, but via generous gifts of expensive real estate.

John Brademas, a former Indiana congressman who was the university's president from 1981 to 1991, still lives in an apartment owned by N.Y.U., as does L. Jay Oliva, who succeeded him in office and led the university until 2002. Philip Lentz, another university spokesman, said that they "continue to remain active in university affairs and live in faculty housing."

It's worth noting that the lavish cash prizes and real estate gifts NYU bestows upon some of its employees are exchanging hands behind the scenes as NYU's tuition and fees have gone sky high. Last year, a 2,000-word email to students from President Sexton turned out to be mostly a lot of rah-rah fluff to soften the blow that was another tuition hike. Just as it had the year before, tuition was going up another 3.8 percent. For the 2010-11 year, the jump was 3.5 percent. Tuition and other fees for NYU are now nearly $60,000 per year, and that's before the expenses of books and supplies are added in, putting the cost of an NYU undergraduate education at about a quarter of a million dollars, when all is said and done.

In 2010, the average NYU student graduated with more than $41,000 in student debt. Unfortunately for them, there is no free lifetime apartment for leaving NYU after earning a degree there.

[Image via Flickr user Leah.nicor]