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New report shows first-year college and university students drive economic and social spending

Oshawa, ON - A new report released today by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College shows first-year college and university students are a powerful and highly influential group to be reckoned with. According to the second annual First InSight report which looks at the attitudes and behaviours of Canada's first-year college and university students, their influence helps drive social and economic spending.

On average, today's college- and university-bound students have at least one credit card, and 40 per cent report carrying debt on these cards.1 These students spend about $500 per month on fast food and clothes, and they drive household spending.2

"They are the first generation that has been marketed to their entire lives and they're not afraid to flex a little influential muscle when it comes to their post-secondary education," says Dr. Sharon Loverock, manager of Research Services at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Ontario. "The report is aimed at helping faculty understand the changing perspective of these students in order to help them succeed."

Dubbed the "double cohort" generation, the majority of these students was born in 1984 or 1985 and they make up part of the 1.7 million students (five per cent of the nation's population) who are enrolled in courses leading to degrees, diplomas or certificates at public colleges and universities throughout Canada.3 On average, those who chose to pursue a university education reached this decision at age 13.4 About 10 per cent of university-bound students are interested in a medical or MBA degree.5

The influence of these students may not be surprising given their sheer numbers. There are more Canadian post-secondary students than there are citizens of Manitoba, Saskatchewan or any of the Atlantic provinces.6 There are more students attending post-secondary institutions in Canada than there are farmers, fishers, miners, forestry workers, utility workers, oil and gas workers and construction workers combined.7

Interestingly, more young Canadian women are heading off to university than their male counterparts. According to the report, more young women than men will continue to enrol in university. Female undergraduate students first outnumbered males on Canadian campuses in 1986, and in 2001 women represented 57 per cent of undergraduates.8

"This increase may directly impact the progress made by women in the job market over the past decade," notes Dr. Loverock. Over the past decade, the number of female managers in the Canadian workforce increased by 40 per cent and the number of women defining their position as senior management doubled, according to a recent report from Statistics Canada.9

Get connected
This group of tech-savvy students doesn't want to look far for an Internet connection. About 95 per cent of university applicants have Internet access at home,10 while 60 per cent of university-bound students say they are "very much" or "somewhat" interested in using computers/Internet in class.11 College and university Web sites are also the most popular source of information on post-secondary institutions among 58 per cent of college- and university-bound students in Ontario.12

Dollars and sense
Since this group of students was five or six years old (1990-1991), the average undergraduate tuition in Canada jumped by 76 per cent or six per cent per year in inflation-adjusted dollars.13 Students who borrow money for their education and graduate from four-year degree programs can expect to accumulate an average debt of $21,200.14

Growing up with egos and icons
For this group of students, growing up was all about making a statement from the toys that they played with to the fashions that they donned. For example:

  • When these students were born, fashion dictated the Miami Vice pastel sportcoat for men, while female fashionistas donned the Madonna-look lace gloves with no fingers, exposed lingerie and rubber bracelets.
  • George Michael's hit Careless Whisper was the number 1 song the year these students were born.
  • As children they played with Cabbage Patch Kids, Pound Puppies and Teddy Ruxpin.
  • They were just five years old when they were introduced to the cartoon Simpsons of Springfield.
  • The year they were born, Pierre Elliott Trudeau ended his reign as Canada's prime minister for 16 years.
  • They were only four years old when Wayne Gretzky was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, ending an era in Canadian hockey history.

Dictating pop culture
Most notably these students are a highly influential bunch and help dictate pop culture from music and movies to fashion and celebrity status.

These young Canadians love music, yet they spend only half as much time listening to the radio as adults.15 Popular music artists among this group of students include B2K (R&B), Skye Sweetman (pop) and Good Charlotte (rock).

The latest fashion trends include an urban style (athletic jerseys for men), a retro hippie look (marcramé belts and peasant skirts for women) and recycled "trash" (getting creative by redesigning consignment items with a bit of flare). Denim (low-riders and hip-huggers) remains most popular among this group of students.

Celebrities quickly rising to the top among this group include Mike Vogel (skater star of the movie Grind), Mark McGrath (lead singer of Sugar Ray), Ashanti (Grammy-winning R&B singer), and Tyra Banks (model and host of America's Next Top Model).

About the University of Ontario Institute of Technology

As Canada's newest university, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology provides a unique combination of academic knowledge, vibrant student life, leading-edge research and hands-on skills. The university offers nine degree programs and shares selected facilities with Durham College. Located in Oshawa, Ontario, the university welcomes its first students this September. For more information, visit or call 1.866.844.8648.


1., 3., 6., 7., 13., 14. The Price of Knowledge: Access and Student Finance in Canada, Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, September 2002.
2. Canadian Securities Administrators,, April 2001.
4. Council of Ontario Universities, 2002 University Applicant Survey, February 2003, p. 3.
5. Council of Ontario Universities, 2002 University Applicant Survey, February 2003, p. 4.
8. Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Trends in Higher Education, October 15, 2002.
9. National Post, Statistics Canada report, February 12, 2003.
10, 11. Council of Ontario Universities, 2002 University Applicant Survey, February 2003, p. 5.
12. Youthography, Inc. poll of Ontario students, October 2002.
15. Darren Yourk, "Canadian teens shun the airwaves," The Globe and Mail (Online edition), October 21, 2002; Statistics Canada, The Daily, "Radio Listening," October 21, 2002.

For more information or to schedule an interview with Dr. Sharon Loverock, please contact:

Catherine Shearer-Kudel
905.721.3111, ext. 2162

About Ontario Tech University
Ontario Tech University advances the discovery and application of knowledge through a technology-enriched learning environment and the delivery of innovative market-driven programs responsive to the needs of students and industry. With more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in more than 90 programs, the university promotes social engagement, fosters critical thinking and integrates outcomes-based learning experiences inside and outside the classroom. The university's commitment to accelerating economic growth and social innovation is realized through faculty research collaborations with leading organizations such as Ontario Power Generation, IBM, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Durham Regional Police Service. To find out more, visit

Media contact
Heather Middleton
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
905.721.3111, ext. 2513