The University of Maryland Board of Regents has approved, in principle, a far-reaching plan to upgrade and add new programs to the underenrolled Baltimore County campus and to tighten admissions standards, effective with the freshman class of 1980.

The plan for adding new programs and upgrading UMBC in Cantonsville won unanimous endorsement from the board after the plan was strongly recommended by University President John S. Toll. It came just two months after a similar plan for upgrading the troubled and black University of Maryland Eastern Shore and it reflected his intention, Toll said, to equalize all three undergraduate branches of the university - UMES, UMBC and the University of Maryland at College Park.

Among the major elements in the plan for UMBC are establishment of a journalism program, the transfer from College Park of a significant part of the College of Business and Management, addition of graduate programs in education, a doctoral program in applied developmental psychology, a master's and doctoral program in chemistry, a master of music program and a master of arts program in geography.

Opened in the late 1960s to make a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] branch of the university available Baltimore area residents, UMBC has lagged behind its growth projections. With 5,000 students, it is only being used to 60 percent of its capacity, and the State Board of Higher Education recently set a goal of 7,500 students by 1964. Officials are known to think that while UMBC has a first-rate liberal arts faculty, it needs career-oriented programs to attract more students.

By moving a section of the College of Business and Management to UMBC, the university effectively addresses two difficult and thorny problems.With 4,800 enrolled at the business college at College Park, the program is overcrowded to the point where it could lose accreditation if something is not done.

The plan approved by the board this week calls for reducing enrollment in business and management by 2,000 at College Park by 1983, while expanding it to include 1,200 undergraduate students and 300 graduates at UMBC. Additionally, entrance requirements would be tightened at College Park as another means of reducing enrollments.

At UMBC, a separate resident faculty would be recruited to run the program, but the programs at UMBC and College Park would be jointly administered.

In urging a journalism program for UMBC, the plan rejects earlier proposals that the entire school of journalism be moved from College Park, who claimed that moving from the Washington area would destroy the program.

In approving the higher entrance requirements for the three undergraduate campuses, the board acted on earlier recommendations that the standards be raised from a C average and the top half of a high school class to a C average and the top 40 percent of a high school class. However, each campus was explicitly permitted to make exceptions for students with unusual musical, athletic or artistic ability.

Tightening stardards, Toll said, is part of an overall plan to boost the academic image of the university and to attract more top students.