Cynics may describe it as a victory for political expediency. Idealists may refer to it as a triumph of principle. All can legitimately think of it as a reflection of common sense.

But it is only a partial triumph.We are referring to this week's decision by the Bush administration to suspend a controversial Education Department ruling to bar federal funds to colleges that award scholarships solely on the basis of race.

This reversal should disperse the political flak the administration was receiving for a ruling that would have set back efforts to help not only minorities but also facilitate the efforts of colleges to attract a more diverse studentbody.

If the ruling had persisted, who can tell where the axe might have fallen next? No more federal funds for colleges that set aside certain scholarships for students from Pittsburgh, or some other specific geographical area? A ban on aid to schools with scholarships earmarked for young women of Latvian descent?

For the time-being, at least, America has been spared further permutations of Washington's penchant for pushing the principle of non-discrimination to ridiculous extremes.

What has not been stamped out, though, is Washington's habit of threatening an entire institution just because the federal establishment has a quarrel with part of that institution. Consequently, the recent flap over scholarships ought to prompt all sorts of organizations, but particularly colleges, to cut down their dependence on money from Washington.