More than 345,000 persons participated in programs, took courses, attended lectures, workshops or seminars, saw plays or heard concerts at Northern Virginia Community College or George Mason University during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Northern Virginia Community College, with an enrollment this fall of about 31,000, is now, in terms of sheer [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the largest education institution in Virginia. During all semesters of last year, the community college, which has campuses in Alexandria, Manassas, Woodbridge, Annandale and Loudoun, enrolled 50,374 students in credit courses and 12,246 students in noncredit courses.

"We count each student only once no matter how many courses he or she took during the year," said Dr. Richard J. Ernst, president of the college.

At George Mason last year, 12,444 students enrolled in credit courses and 2,200 enrolled in noncredit courses.

Special events, arts festivals, lectures, dances and other programs drew an estimated 160,000 people to George Mason and 45,277 people to Northern Virginia Community College, according to a joint news release from the two institutions.

For workshops, seminars and other programs, the figures are 33,676 for George Mason and 28,792 for the Community College.

Both institutions serve two distinct age groups, students of traditional college age and older, part-time students. The age of the average student at George Mason is 26; at Northern Virginia Community College it is 28. Both averages are increasing each year.

Hampden-Sydney College, a private men's college in Farmville, has run up operating deficits of more than $1 million during the past three years, forcing college officials to consider selling some endowment securities and establishing tighter spending controls, according to the Associated Press.

But officials of the 200-year old college say they are confident they can weather the financial storm without reducing the quality of education.

Chief among the financial woes at the school, which draws the bulk of its students from Virginia, was an operating deficit of $781,000 last year. According to college officials, operating expenses of $5.1 million exceeded income of $4.3 million.

Like other private colleges, many of which are facing financial difficulties, Hampden-Sydney does not have access to tax revenues. Most of its income is from student tuition and fees.

Among the options being considered by college officials are selling some low-yield securities in the college's $12.5-million endowmen portfolio or borrowing money.

The Virginia Council of Higher Education is considering whether to recommend a freeze on enrollment growth at the four "high-demand" state colleges as one way to help the smaller and lesser known state schools remain in business.

Barry Dorsey, a council spokesman, said there is some concern that with the impending decline in the number of 18-year-olds in the 1980s, some schools will not be able to attract though students to remain open. If the four most popular state colleges - the University of Virginia, William and Mary, James Madison and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - are allowed to expand, they could be drawing students the other schools need to keep their doors open.

One option being considered by the council, according to Dorsey, is to recommend enrollment increases at state-supported colleges in the Richmond and Norfolk areas and at George Mason University in Northern Virginia, where there are large population centers and good prospects for drawing part-time students.

C. Harrison Mann Jr., founder and former member of the Board of Visitors of George Mason University, has bequeathed a collection of rare atlases and maps, valued at $18,335, to Fenwick Library at the university.

Included in the collection are 18 rare editions of atlases and 76 rare maps of early Virginia and Maryland plus several foreign countries. Among them are a 1585 map of the harbor of Cadiz, from which Columbus sailed, and an edition of a John Smith map of Virginia published in 1620 and showing many of the Indian place names.

The collection also includes an Atlas Antiquus, circa 1700, valued at $2,500, and a parchment map, drawn by hand in 1698, of a Scottish colony between Panama and Columbia.

Mann's widow, Frances, also donated a collection of 90 rare books and a number of Civil War-era newspapers. Among them are an edition of the first collected works of the British statesman Edmund Burke and an 1852 copy of the first British edition of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.