For the first time in U.S. history, more than 30 percent of Americans 25 years and older have attained a bachelor’s degree, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Back in 1998, less than 25 percent of U.S. citizens had earned a four-year college degree, according to the Census. The information was collected from the bureau’s Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

The report included a number of other key findings: the number of Hispanics that have received a bachelor’s degree increased by 80 percent from 2001 to 2011. The percentage of people with bachelor’s degrees who were unemployed was significantly lower during the recession than those who did not have that level of education. In 2010, people whose highest education was a bachelor’s degree earned $58,000 on average; those whose highest education was a high school degree averaged $31,000.

President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of higher education in his State of the Union address in January and his budget released this month. "Higher education can’t be a luxury -- it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford," he said in his speech before Congress.

He has proposed a $1 billion Race To The Top for College Completion and Affordability, in which states and schools would compete for federal funding by demonstrating their plans to achieve goals laid out by the administration. Those goals include revamping funding structures for higher education, aligning standards with K-12 education to ensure students can graduate from college on time, and maintaining adequate funding for public colleges and universities.

In addition, Obama requested $56 million for a First In The World competition, designed to encourage innovative initiatives in higher education. He also outlined a three-year, $8 billion program in his budget to support job training in states and community colleges, stating his goal of putting two million trained workers in jobs by its conclusion.