You can throw a pot, see the stars, view free films and fix up cars. From day care to night life, area universities offer a wide range of resources, many of them free.

Colleges today are not for students only. Although universities traditionally have sponsored events and programs for area residents--to inspire good community relations--the current economic squeeze has increased their outreach efforts, says a spokesperson for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

In an address to AASC members, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D--R.I.) advised college leaders to "focus attention on the community in which your institution is located" in an effort to reverse the cutback tide. "In many cases," he said, "your institution is the major industry in your community. Yet all too often, this fact is not known, or if known, is not acted upon."

Some university resources are widely subscribed. Possibly the most popular are free and low-cost continuing education courses. Non-students can research and read in university libraries, but generally not check out books. And many colleges--particularly state and city--allow groups to use classrooms and auditoriums, free, or for a nominal fee.

Many have speakers' bureaus that will provide an expert on virtually any topic to address your group. Some, like the University of the District of Columbia, will even create a special course if enough people are interested in enrolling.

Campus radio stations--like the University of Maryland's WMUC, American University's WAMU and Howard's WHUR--provide news, public affairs and music programming of interest to the community. Howard's new television station, Channel 32, broadcasts programs of relevance to area residents.

At many universities, employers can list job opportunities at the career-development office, singers can audition for choral groups, prospective students can take academic tests, senior citizens may take selected courses for nominal fees and student-volunteer groups will help in community-service projects.

Here is a sampling of some resources offered to the general public by area universities:

American University

* Arts and Events. Most performances by music, drama and dance groups open to the public, many free. Watkins Art Gallery, featuring student works, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public often welcome at lectures. For monthly calendar of events, 686-2100. For recorded message of campus activities, 244-5340. Information on performing arts, 686-2317.

* Films. Wechsler Theater, free films Monday through Thursday evenings and low-cost films often offered on Friday and Saturday nights. Subscriptions available for foreign film series. For information, 686-2103.

* Athletics. Track open to runners. Intercollegiate sports events open to spectators, free, except for basketball, 686-2560. Summer swimming for children, 686-2563; summer soccer camp for kids 8 to 18, 686-2566; tennis club with limited openings, 686-2566.

* Day Care. Child-development center for children 2 1/2 to 6 years old, 686-6342. Summer day camp for ages 7 to 12, 686-2567.

Catholic University

* Programs. Kids' Primetime, sponsored by the School of Education, aimed at involving parents in teaching children basic educational skills, Wednesdays at McDonald's (1st Street and New York Avenue NW): 10:30-11:30 a.m., preschool story hour; 3:30-4:30 p.m., activity time for elementary school children. Irene Blum, 635-5800.

* Culture. Concert information, 635-5555; theater 635-5367.

* Speakers' Bureau. National Center for Family Studies and The Center for the Study of Pre-retirement and Aging sponsors speakers bureau and offers workshops and consultations on family-related issues, 635-5453.

* Exhibits. Photo exhibit, "Kidspace: Using the City," relates city planning to the needs of children and families. Sponsored by The National Center for Family Studies, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., St. John's Hall.

* Lecture Series. Philosophy department lecture series on contemporary issues, 635-5259.

* Legal Clinic. Columbus School of Law community clinic at 1713 North Capitol Street. Services free for qualified clients, 526-5800.

* Films. Fine Arts Council screenings of recent movies most Friday nights during academic semesters at the Nursing Auditorium. Admission fee under $2. For schedule information, call Information Center, 635-5200, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 1 p.m.-11 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

* Summer Housing. Short-term and long-term housing available in campus dormitories June 1-Aug. 14 for groups and individuals planning to study, work or tour in the nation's capital. Rates begin at $12 per day, $69 per week. Reservations required from groups by April 1, from individuals by May 1. Campus cafeterias serve three meals daily. For more information, Rose DiNapoli at the Office of Resident Life, 635-5277.

George Mason

* Literary Events. As part of the Writers in Residence series and the Spring Literary Symposium, writers present public readings and discussions, 323-2220.

* Lectures. Topics include conflict management in divorce, family mediation and hostage negotiation, 323-3399.

* Theater. Barter Theatre, the state theater of Virginia in residence for the winter season. Call 323-2075. GMU student theater presents four productions a year, 691-7900.

* Concerts. Tickets for Spring Classical Music Series, $5; $3 for students. Call 691-7900. Orchestral and choral groups present concerts, many free, 691-7900.

Georgetown

Sports. For information on all events, 625-4182; for tickets, 625-HOYA.

Theater. "Mask and Bauble" student productions, $3.50. Call 625-3181, Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m., or 625-4960 weekends.

Activities. Spring Festival weekend of outdoor festivities featuring various booths, food, crafts and concerts. April 30, May 1 & 2. 625-3181.

George Washington

* Fine Arts. Free and low-cost music performances at the Marvin Theater, 676-6245. The Lisner at Noon program: half-hour samplings of performances by artists appearing in full-length presentations at Lisner, 676-6800. Art exhibits at the Dimock Gallery, 676-7091, and the Gelman Library, 676-6845.

* Seminars and Lectures. GW Alumni Association's "First Wednesday" series and other lectures by distingushed speakers, 676-6435. Development Office seminars on estate planning, 676-6414.

* Legal advice. Consumer Help Hotline open weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 775-8567. Operation PEP (Protection for Elderly People), 265-4900. National Center for Law and the Deaf, 651-5454. Community Legal Clinic legal assistance to the poor at Legal Aid Office, 676-7463.

* Films. Free and low-cost films at Marvin Center Ballroom and Lisner Auditorium, 676-7312.

Howard University

* Events. Annual Martin Luther King Day celebration, art exhibits, children's theater projects, tax clinic and summer-enrichment programs. For 24-hour report on events, 636-5615.

* Health. Howard University Hospital Advisory Board gives community input to hospital programs. Among programs: Children's Health Fair, Center for Hypertension Control, Medical Screening for Youth and Community Dentistry, Sickle Cell Mobile Unit, 745-1471.

* Religion. Guest speakers at ecumenical services at Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. United ministries' pastoral care for students and general public, 636-7280.

Mount Vernon

* Culture. Free and low-cost concerts, including "Coffee Concert" noon-hour series of dance and orchestral works in Post Hall. Art exhibits at the Gatehouse Gallery, 331-0400.

* Lectures. Lectures and seminars on topics such as career choices often open to the public, 331-0400.

University of D.C.

* Film. Black and Third World-oriented movies, free: Black Film Institute, series on Southern Africa, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (begins April 8th), Miner Auditorium, 2565 Georgia Ave., 727-2396; Movie Break/Asian Films, Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at noon, Van Ness campus, Building 41, Room A-03, 282-7536.

* Workshops. Co-operative Extension service free seminars on varied topics, from urban horticulture to planning a wedding, 727-2004. Continuing Education Division credit and non-credit courses for nominal fee, 727-2315.

University of Maryland

* Culture. Craft Center facilities for $25 membership fee, free films on arts and crafts, 454-4754. Free art exhibits at Art Gallery, 454-2763. Free and low-cost concerts sponsored by the Music Department, 454-6669 or 454-2501; Dance 454-4056; Drama (Tawes Theater box office) 454-2201. For a calendar of cultural activities, 454-5605.

* Nyumburu Community Center, symposia and workshops by visiting artists and scholars, plus free workshops in karate and dance, classes in jazz and blues and art exhibits of special interest to the black community, 454-5774.

* Sports. Jogging on the parcourse, 454-3124; basketball at special hours, 454-3124; evaluations by sports-medicine and physical-fitness center, 454-4750.

* Environment. Astronomy observatory, free open house twice a month, 454-4021. Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station: research results from university's nine Maryland farms, available free, 454-3707; Plant Research Farm, 572-7247; beef research center, (301) 795-1310.

* Private Lives. Center on Aging, conferences and workshops, 454-5856. Center for Young Children pre-school for limited number of 3-to 5-year-olds, 454-2341. Counseling Center programs on topics such as anxiety-reduction, exam skills and single parenting, 454-2931. Community crisis hotline, 454-HELP.

* Resources. Public service directory, "Toward Closer Ties," information about services, facilities and expertise available to the community through the university's five campuses available for $3 from the Office of Public Service, Suite 1218 Social Sciences Building, University of Maryland, College Park, Md. 20742.

U.Va., Falls Church Center

* Careers, Vocational tes ting and counseling for individuals or groups, and special courses designed specifically for women, 698-5171.

* Travel. Non-credit study/tours to places such as Great Britain and China, to explore art, architecture, culture, 532-5594. Day and weekend tours of historic homes and museums of Virginia sponsored throughout the year, 698-9010.