The University of Maryland and Howard University were co-hosts last month to 30 talented teen-agers from around the country in a program designed to steer them into the business world.

The two universities' business schools conducted minibusiness classes for four weeks for the 16- and 17-year-old students in cooperation with the LEAD Program in Business Inc.

LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) was established in 1980 at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in response to concerns among major corporations about the lack of minority group representation in business schools.

Wharton recognized that minority group students were unaware of the opportunities in business or that business was not perceived as being as rewarding as law school, medicine or teaching, according to program brochures.

"This program gives you great exposure to the business world," said Peter Lee, 17, who attends Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. " . . . and it could help you make career decisions."

David Rudd, l6, who attends St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, called it an "opportunity to meet people from other areas."

Lee, Rudd and the other high school juniors spent July in Washington meeting business executives, professors and guest lecturers to discuss topics ranging from banking and finance to minority entrepreneurship.

In three years, the program has expanded from 30 students at one university, sponsored by one corporation, to this year's 2l0 students, seven participating universities and about 80 major corporations.

Each participating university has a primary sponsor. For Maryland and Howard, the costs of field trips, guest lecturers, case histories, stipends and other expenses were paid primarily by Mid-Atlantic Toyota in Glen Burnie and other supporting businesses.

Many students in the Washington program said they expected to go to college and already had decided on a major. But as a result of these classes, some may change their majors, they said.

"I never thought of business before I came here," said Lisa Baldwin, 16, of Winchester-Thurston High in Braddock, Pa.

Recruiting for the program is conducted by A Better Chance Inc., a national minority talent search organization based in Boston.

The students are judged by their high school transcripts, two essays and on their personal and academic backgrounds and two letters of recommendation.

Although they will not receive any high school credit for the minibusiness studies, some students said the program would enhance their academic records.

Recently, students from the seven universities acting as hosts for LEAD participants gathered in Washington for a reception sponsored by Mayor Marion Barry and Continental Telecom Inc., in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

They also attended an awards dinner at the Rayburn House Office Building, visited the Supreme Court and met executive branch officials.