Vernon E. Jordan, the soon-to-retire National Urban League president and a 1960 alumnus of the Howard University law school, returned to Howard's Hilltop campus yesterday and delivered a stinging rebuke to President Reagan's proposed further cutbacks in social programs.

Reagan, he asserted, wants to cut funding of programs for education, food stamps, health, housing, jobs, legal services and school lunches "in order to calm the nerves of jittery Wall Street brokers" who understandably fear the president's economic program won't work. He called the Reagan administration "callous" and "hostile to black interests."

Speaking to the faculty and students at a convocation opening the university's 114th academic year, Jordan noted Reagan's quoting at the recent NAACP convention of the late president Kennedy's economic analogy, "A rising tide lifts all boats."

"A rising tide can lift all boats," echoed Jordan, "but black people's boats are in the drydock." Later he asked rhetorically, "What help are jobs the Reagan program might deliver in 1986 if food stamps are cut in 1981?"

Jordan's main message was a statement of goals for the predominantly black student body: Study hard, work hard, seek excellence and don't let personal ambition eclipse the need to better the lot of the black poor.

In January, Jordan will join the Washington office of a major law firm.