The college cohort (the vast majority between 18-34) wield formidable spending power, projected to increase 13% from $270 billion in 2009 to $306 billion this year. Within this figure, discretionary spending is set to increase 10% from $62.7 billion to $69 billion, making college consumers an even more desirable demographic for marketers.
The new spending is going to categories such as automotive, entertainment, personal-care products and technology, with the exception of cell phones/PDAs, where spending is stagnant.
In keeping with well-established patterns, male students are more likely to direct discretionary spending to entertainment and technology, while female students take the lead in clothing, shoes, cosmetics and cell phones.
Of note: male students are now spending slightly more than female students on personal-care products, according to Alloy.
The Alloy survey also examined the attitudes and consumer behaviors of this large, relatively well-heeled subpopulation. Although they are understandably cautious about the economy in the near term, they are noticeably more optimistic than their elders, with 42% saying they believe the economy will improve this year, compared to 31% for the 35+ U.S. population at large.
The undergraduate population of American colleges and universities has increased steadily over the last few decades, from 12.2 million in 1995 to 15 million in 2005 and 16 million this year, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.