The number of U.S. Hispanics with a bachelor's degree or higher increased by 80 percent between 2001 and 2011, from 2.1 million to 3.8 million, the Census Bureau said.

Just over 14 percent of the country's 50.5 million Latinos had a bachelor's degree in 2011, compared with 11.1 percent in 2001.

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In general terms nationwide, 26.2 percent of Americans had a degree in 2001, compared with 30.4 percent a decade later, the first time in the history of the Census when more than 30 percent of people over age 25 have graduated from college.

"This is an important milestone in our history. For many people, education is a sure path to a prosperous life," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

People with higher education have a lower unemployment rate than those who have not graduated from high school, according to Census data, as well as higher wages.

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More than a third of the 56 million Americans with bachelor's degrees have graduated in engineering or science.

For Hispanics, this increase in obtaining college degrees is a particularly important step because of the possibility that Congress might pass the DREAM Act, which would assure legal status for young immigrants who have grown up in this country and decide to attend university or enlist in the Armed Forces.

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