I have worked for seven different colleges over the past twenty years, teaching in the humanities and social sciences and working in various administrative positions. I have worked for huge public schools, small, elite private ones, a large Ivy, and for a for-profit college.
All are expanding meaningless administrative positions, and the biggest bloat is at the director/associate dean/assistant provost level.
I work now for a well-known university that is no better or worse than any of the other schools I have worked for. The leanest administrative machine was the for-profit school; they had shareholders to answer to.
The worst in terms of waste and bloat? The Ivy.
The single biggest cause of waste, in my experience, has been the detachment of faculty from administrative work. Adding these new layers of administrative professionals who do not interact daily with students in any meaningful way, and who create new task forces for this, or a strategic planning initiative for that, yet push the development office to bring in more and more dollars to fund these enormous wastes of time (and that never create meaningful change) is the biggest waste. Period.
I have also seen an incredible increase since the mid 1990s in legal and regulatory staff on campuses, from Academic Development offices to handle students with academic disabilities (ADHD, dyslexia, etc -- not traditional physical disabilities) to university lawyers to HR staff. Judiciary bodies used to discipline students; now they act more as safeguards against lawsuits.
But that expansion is minor compared to the higher-level bloat.
Also anecdotal, but there has been a massive increase in the offering of food at university events over the past 15 years or so. Food is everywhere. Everywhere! And the amount of food has increased. So a smal lecture that, in the past, wouldn't have any food might have had coffee, lemonade and cookies ten years ago, but now it has a spread of pastries, cookies, fruit, coffee and soda.
A faculty meeting that would have had nothing five years ago might include take-out now. Or a student movie night for the department might have had nothing ten years ago; now they have to have pizza and movie snacks.
It is crazy! Minor compared to other costs, but it is so pervasive, and the administrative support for the food, from staff who has to order it to accounting staff who have to process the paperwork for all these small events -- it adds up.