Commentary

Returning College Students Spending Optimistically

Findings from Alloy Media + Marketing's 10th Annual College Explorer Study show 16 million college students between the ages of 18-34 matriculating this Fall with an unprecedented $306 billion in projected spending power, up 13% since last year's estimates.

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The largest class in history, the current college population (ages 18-34) jumps 6% from projected 2009 figures, and shows a projected 10% increase in discretionary spending since last year, rising to an estimated $69 billion.

Dana Markow, VP, Youth and Education Research, Harris Interactive (conducting the study), says "This year's survey shows... a student body that appears more confident towards the future of the country's financial state of affairs... "

These youthful consumers are not cutting back deeply, says the report, despite the continuation of a challenged economy.  42% of the students responding, in both the 18-24 and 18-34 age brackets, stated they feel the economy will improve in the coming year compared to 31% of those 35 and older in the U.S. general population who reported the same.

These students report they are spending 3% more per month on discretionary purchases than they did last year, an average of $361 per student. For both the overall 18-34 college student demographic and its younger subset (18-24), entertainment, personal care products and technology (other than cell phones/PDAs) get a lift this year, showing a slight increase in overall monthly category spend.  

Male students ages 18-34 are spending more towards entertainment and technology on a monthly basis, while females lead slightly in clothing and shoes, cosmetics and cell phone purchases. The 21st century college man is paying increasing attention to his personal appearance. According to the recent report, males are actually spending slightly more than females for personal care products.

Annual discretionary spending among 18-24 year old college students jumps to a projected $37.7 billion. While automotive and entertainment, two of the top three categories for annual spend among 18-24 year olds, saw an increase since last year, personal care and technology spending figures increased nearly as much. Food still leads in annual category expenditure for 18-34 year old college consumers though spending on personal care products and entertainment shows a slightly larger leap over last year's figures.

18-24 year olds appear to have set different fiscal priorities than their older counterparts. More than half of the 18-24 year olds surveyed stated spending for entertainment, eating out, and bars and nightclubs has remained steady or increased, while approximately only four in ten 25-34 year olds agreed with such sentiment. Specifically, when it comes to eating out, a hefty 52% of 18-24 year olds stated spending stayed steady or increased, vs. 38% for 25-34 year olds.  

Andy Sawyer, EVP, Media Services, Alloy Media + Marketing, concludes that "This year's findings... (indicate the) college consumers' growing influence in the marketplace... and reiterates the importance this group holds for brands aiming to gain long term loyalty... It (could be) the marketer's essential guide to navigating the modern campus and its inhabitants' unique behaviors."

For more from Alloy Media + Marketing, please visit here, or here for Harris Interactive

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