I had a startling experience a few weeks ago. I travelled to Mexico City for talks at the National University, an enormous and very impressive institution with high standards of achievement and scholarship. Entrance is selective, but the university is virtually free. I then visited an even more remarkable institution, the college in Mexico City established by former mayor Lopez Obrador. Again, the facilities and standards are quite impressive. It is not only free, but has open admissions, though sometimes that requires some delay and sometimes assistance for students lacking adequate preparation. Shortly after I went to San Francisco for talks, and learned more about the California institutions of higher education. They have been at the very peak of the international higher education system. By now tuitions are quite high, even for in-state students, and cutbacks are affecting teaching, research, and staff. It would be no great surprise if the two major state universities, UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles, will soon be privatized while the remainder of the state system is reduced considerably in scale and level. Needless to say, Mexico is a poor country with a struggling economy, and California should be one of the richest places in the world, with incomparable advantages. I mention these recent experiences only to emphasize that the recent cut-backs in higher education seen in much of the world cannot simply be traced to economic problems. Rather, they reflect fundamental choices about the nature of the society in which we will live. If it is to be designed for the wealthy and privileged, mostly engaged in management and finance while production is transferred abroad and most of the population is left to fend somehow for themselves at the fringes of decent and creative life, then these are good choices. If we have different aspirations for the world of our children and grandchildren, the choices are shameful and ruinous.