The racial composition of higher education lies at the end of a chain reaction of economic, educational, and social factors. HEW's 1977 criteria went a long way in requiring affirmative measures to maximize the educational choices of black students and to enhance the educational offerings of black colleges. But the fulfillment of desegregation goals is still subject to changing economic winds, political currents, and national moods. It was against such shifting tides that the black public college has always stood. It is important to recall the distinction between legal right and those factors that determine the extent to which that right may be enjoyed. The higher education cases suggest the dangers of reaching the right conclusion for the wrong reason. Both the inferiority of Negro schools and the persistence of racial identifiability in higher education were symptomatic of more fundamental problems that the end of legal segregation did not necessarily solve. By redirecting the attention of courts and administrators from manifestations of racial separation to the basic issue of access, and from the inferiority of separate schools to the value of enhanced black institutions, black educators located the common ground between the requirement of the law and the central concern of educational policy.