We study the capture of higher education by the Pinochet dictatorship following the 1973 military coup in Chile. We show that the regime’s twin aims of political control and fiscal conservatism led to a large contraction of all universities in the country, mostly through a steady reduction in the number of openings for incoming students. As a result, individuals that reached college age in the years immediately after the military coup experienced a sharp decline in college enrollment. These individuals had worse labor market outcomes throughout the life cycle and struggled to climb up the socioeconomic ladder. Children with a parent in the affected cohorts are themselves less likely to enroll in university, even after democratization. These findings illustrate the relationship between political regimes, redistributive policies and social mobility. They also shed light on the long-lasting effects of the reform agenda implemented under Pinochet.