They call it brain drain.
It's the harsh truth that Pennsylvania kids can't afford to stay in Pennsylvania when they get higher education, and it dances around the edges of a lot of the problems with the state's colleges and universities.
While the Keystone State boasts plenty of opportunities — research universities like Pitt and Carnegie Mellon and Ivy League and small liberal arts schools — the tuitions are among the highest in the nation.
That means it can be cheaper to pay out-of-state tuition somewhere far from home. Enrollments have dropped steadily in recent years for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education — the most affordable four-year public options.
At the same time, students who choose to take out loans to go to a Pennsylvania dream school (or even just the one around the corner) can have to move elsewhere for the job to pay them back. The Commonwealth Foundation says about 32,000 people aged 18-34 left the state in a six-year period.
Everyone acknowledges this is a problem, leaving the state without large portions of the kids it has spent decades and dollars educating. The problem is agreement on how to fix it.
In his new budget proposal, Gov. Tom Wolf outlined a plan for a $200-million-a-year scholarship program that could erase or drastically shrink the debt of low- and middle-income PASSHE graduates, but only if they stay in Pennsylvania after graduation. He would like to pull that money from the casino-funded Horse Race Development Trust.
Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives in the House and Senate are coming at the problem from the other side, blaming the flight on the high taxes those young people start paying while also faced with student loan payments. The Taxpayer Protection Act would limit spending increases.
There is room for both solutions.
The governor's proposal is creative, tying graduates to a state that doesn't want to lose a well-educated future to Texas or North Carolina.
The TPA acknowledges that the people have needs but the purse has limits.
The answers don't have to be all or nothing. They can be, and should be, a combination of saving whenever we can and spending wherever it's smart. We just need people willing to put their heads together to find that balance and common ground.
Which means we are going to need some smart people. Let's hope they won't have moved to California.
The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.