Georgetown University, seeking to double its endowment and increase student financial assistance, announced yesterday a five-year drive to raise $115 million_the largest fund-raising campaign ever undertaken by a Washington-area university.

The appeal is one of many major capital drives by unversities now under way nationally, including campaigns for $250 million by Harvard University and $255 million by New York University. In this area, Howard University has crossed the halfway mark with $51.1 million raised of the $100 million drive it began in 1977. The University of Virginia is seeking $90 million.

"It's a very competitive world out there between colleges and all sorts of nonprofit groups," said Arthur C. Kammerman, vice president of the Council for Financial Aid to Education. "They're all losing federal support, and, with the economy like it is, there are fewer dollars around . . . . "

At a dinner last night, GU president Timothy J. Healy said the drive already had received $38 million in advance gifts. Of the $115 million goal, Healy said $71 million would be for endowment, $29 million for construction and renovation and $15 million for current programs.

Georgetown's current endowment of $73 million, while the largest for any school in the Washington area, ranks 53rd in the nation, according to an association that keeps statistics on such matters.