Simply put, debt-free college means that every student in America, regardless of their financial means, should be able to attend a public college or university and graduate without student debt. It is a promise that, until only 20 years ago, was available to generations of American college students. But rising college costs, as well as stagnating wages and state budget cuts, have meant that student loans are now the primary way that students and families finance higher education. Concerns about student debt have an impact on major life decisions -- from starting careers and small businesses to saving for retirement or buying a home. It even acts as a barrier to attending college in the first place.