College students in America are expected to lay out an all-time high $6.5 billion this year on technology items and spend an average of 12 hours each day engaged with some type of media, according to (pdf) findings released today from Alloy Media + Marketing‘s 9th annual College Explorer survey, conducted by Harris Interactive.
The survey found that the largest class in history, comprising 13.8 million college students (ages 18-30) on campus this year, is responsible for a record $250 billion in projected spending power – up nearly 6% over 2008 figures, Alloy said. Projected discretionary spending shows a comparable gain, with college students reporting approximately $56 billion. These numbers have risen 37% in the past four years.
Take Stock in Tech
Of this total spending, $6.5 billion is expected to be on technology-related items, including computers, mobile devices, MP3 players, and gaming consoles and devices. This figure represents a slight increase over 2008 figures and falls just below the top two discretionary spending categories: food and automotive.
Whither the Desktop Computer?
Students’ increasing mobility and need for 24-7 connection is confirmed by rapid year-over-year increases in ownership of both laptops and MP3 players, the research found. For the first time since the survey’s inception, desktop ownership has dipped to less than half (46%) of the 18-30 year old college-student population (46%), while laptops are now the preferred model on campus, with three-quarters (75%) of students reporting ownership.
In four years, the MP3 player has more than doubled to a total of 74% ownership, while digital camera ownership also has jumped to almost three-quarters (74%), a 28% increase since 2006.
More Computers than TV
In an analysis of the extent to which multi-tasking students are engaging with their preferred media on a daily basis, the survey found that – when all platforms are totaled – students are spending an average of 12 hours daily engaged with some type of media. The majority of that time – 9.5 hours – is spent with their “tech” gadgets, including computers, mobile devices, MP3 players, and gaming devices.
Notably, students are now spending twice as much time on their computer than they are watching TV. Students report watching 2.5 hours of TV daily, nearly equal to time spent on their cell phones or PDAs. In contrast, one-fifth of their day is spent on the computer, the survey found.
This year’s study also demonstrated students’ increasing viewing of online video, which has increased year-over-year for TV shows, user generated videos and webisodic programming:
As online habits continue to shift and video content becomes more prevalent, there appears to be considerable acceptance of advertising among college students across the web, so long as such advertising is done on their terms, the study revealed.
For example, while pop-up ads or banners are not widely accepted by this group, more than half of college students (53%) say they do not avoid webisodes or pre-roll ads while online, and 68% say they don’t avoid online promotions. Rather, one in five students say that advertisements in the form of online promotions are most useful to them, according to Alloy.
Additional survey findings:
“Mobility and media convergence appears to be the required curriculum on the quad,” stated Andy Sawyer, SVP, Media Services for Alloy Media + Marketing. “Perpetual advancements in technology have clearly given students increasing control and the ease with which to socialize, communicate and be entertained on demand.”
About the survey: The 2009 Alloy College Explorer study was conducted online within the US by Harris Interactive on behalf of Alloy Media + Marketing from April 1-27, 2009 among 1,521 US 18-34 year old college students (2-year, 4-year and graduate students, including 1,433 18-30 year old college students) who agreed to participate in online surveys. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, region and school status (full-time, part-time, 4-yr., 2-yr.). Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.