If there were more young people like Moses W. Harrison, a graduate of an elite prep school, the future of the tiny, 600-student St. Paul's College that he attends here would be more secure.

But in an age of Bakke and affirmative action the future of St. Paul's and the nation's 62 other private predominately black colleges, most of them in the rural South, face a future filled with questions.

For these schools it is academically talented students like Harrison who can spell the difference between continued success and failure. "We may not be getting the top of the line students the way we once did," concedes George W. McLaughlin, chairman of the department of education at St. Paul's. "The high-powered (white) institutions with their expensive recruiting methods are taking the crean of the crop."

Harrison, who graduated from prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., is, as many faculty members here concede, an exception to the typical students that most black colleges recruit. That is a point that is painfully apparent to Harrison, son of a St. Paul's faculty member.

"A lot of my black friends at Anmdover wouldn't consider going to a black college," Harrison said. "A lot of black students wouldn't see the back door of a college, let alone graduate, if it weren't for St. Paul's and places like it."

Harrison, who will be a senior here next year, said he chose to return to the small school in his hometown because "I felt as if I needed to go to a black college. I wanted a black education . . . I know some people who went to white schools like Princeton and Harvard and got assimilated. They lost part of their black identity."

Like many other predominantly black colleges in the South St. Paul's is hoping to overcome the impact of black recruiting programs at larger colleges by stressing its historic mission to serve blacks. "These (black colleges and universities have provided most of the black leadership across the country." St. Paul's argues in a fund-raising pamphlet. "The service they now provide and have provided for over a century is vital to the nation."

Exactly what will be the impact of Bakke on St. Paul's and other historically black colleges is unclear. Most educators at black colleges fear it will intensify recruiting by larger schools, "but the black colleges are far from dead," said St. Paul's McLaughlin. "We're going to be around for a while."

It's possible, says Samuel L. Myers, executive director of the Washington based National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a group that includes must black colleges, that the Bakke decision could be useful in winning support for a variety of special programs at the black colleges. Among them would be programs aimed at increasing admission test scores for professional schools, he said.

The fact that the decision said it is legal to take race into account in the admissions process might also be a plus, said Myers.

"It says that the fact that we are black is not unconstitutional," he said. "It will help us to be more acceptable and not subject to attacks simply because we are predominantly black."

While white colleges are aggressively recruiting black students, supporters of black colleges note, the efforts are aimed primarily at the top of the academic ladder. Without the black colleges, they argue, many students would simply be left by the wayside.

"The black colleges are something our forefathers worked day and night to build," said Harrison, who grew up in this quiet Virginia town about 70 miles southwest of Richmond.

Founded almost a century ago to serve the educational needs of blacks in impoverished rural Southside Virginia. St. Paul's history reflects a struggle for survival.

Enrollment here reached an all time high of 626 in 1976, then dropped slightly last fall. St. Paul's annouced ambitious plans last year to build a new student union, double its library space and build an addition to its science building.

Almost steady enrollment increases at St. Paul's over the last few years reflect a pattern at black colleges nationally. In a survy of black college enrollment published this spring, the Institute for Services to Education reported an overall increase for the 11th consecutive year, an 0.8 per cent rise from 211,966 in fall of 1976 to 213,720 in fall of 1977.

Additionally, according to the study by Institute researcher Mary Carter Williams, it was the four-year, private, black colleges like St. Paul's that registered the largest gains. Between the fall of 1976 and 1977 enrollment at those schools rose 19.9 per cent to 60,712 students.

To recruit its students, St. Paul's relies heavily on a network of alumniand friends, many in high school faculties throughout the state.

While it does not exclude whites, it concentrates its recruiting efforts among blacks and it does make a pitch that it is a black school and that blacks can expect some extra care and attention here.

For William Windley, a graduate of Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, Va., it was a cousin, an alumnus of St. Paul's who persuaded him to come here.

"I decided that since it was black and small that this is where I wanted to be," says Windley. A classmate, Debbie Hawkes, says she picked St. Paul's on the recommendation of her principal at nearby Nottoway High School. "He went to St. Paul's and he said it would be a good place for me," says Hawkes.

One of only three black colleges affiliated with the Episcopal Church, St. Paul's was founded by the Rev. James Solomon Russell, a black Episcopal priest and the grandfather of the school's current president.

While it has always counted few Episcopalians among its students, it has nevertheless maintained close ties with the Episcopal Church, one of the state's most prestigious and influential denominations. The Rt. Rev. Robert F. Gibson Jr.,retired Episcopal bishop of Virginia, heads the school's board of trustees, which also includes some of the state's more prominent bankers, lawyers, clerymen and businessmen.

"Most of us support the school because we're encouraged by the caliber of students they're turning out," says Vernard W. Henley, President of Richmond's Consolidated Bank and Trust Co. and a member of St. Paul's board of trustees.

"Many of the students there are in dire need of scholarships and some could not get into the better known colleges and universities," Henley said. "But they do some good remedial work with them and those students make a very substantial contribution to the state."

To raise money for its building program, St. Paul's has embarked on a $3.5 million capital fund-raising campaing, and Henley is codirector of the drive, which has already raised about $600,000.

Located on a 75 acre campus of gently rolling and landscaped hills, St. Paul's has the appearance of hundreds of other small liberal arts colleges. Through the oppressive heat of a summer afternoon, rock music can be heard blaring forth from dirmitory hi fi sets and an occasional jogger lopes across the campus.

The campus is in the center of Lawrenceville, a town of turn-of-the-century houses with wrap-around porches and a population of about 1,700. The college is the town's and surrounding Brunswick County's largest private employer.

"This is a great place to study because there is nothing else to do. Absolutely nothing," says Moses Harrison. "There is notheater. There is no bowling alley. There is not even a fast food franchise."