Black enrollment at Maryland's public colleges in the Washington area has shown a slight gain, but has continued to decline in the Baltimore area despite efforts to reverse the trend, a new state study says.

The declining black enrollment elsewhere in Maryland, which reflects a national pattern, casts doubt on the state's ability to meet some of the 1989 goals established in a consent decree with the federal government two years ago, the report by the State Board for Higher Education indicates.

The decline in minority enrollments is primarily a reflection of cutbacks in federal and state financial aid to college students, a situation that has hit particularly hard among minority students who depend heavily on grants, state and college officials said.

"In the past five years, there's been a 35 percent drop in black enrollment {in public colleges} in Baltimore City," said state board commissioner Sheldon Knorr. "Our estimates and goals were based on the assumption that we would have an increasing pool of black students. To have a decreasing pool makes it difficult to make state goals."

"It's a set of dynamics over which we have comparatively little control," said George Funaro, deputy board commissioner. "Minorities are almost totally dependent on these grant programs, and when they're not there, they're in trouble."

With the Reagan administration working to cut grant programs on one hand, and requiring that goals be met for minority enrollment on the other, "We sometimes operate at cross-purposes," Funaro said. "We're trying to do the best we can at the state level to make up for those deficiencies."

Maryland is one of 18 states with histories of segregated college systems that have entered into minority-enrollment consent decrees with federal agencies since 1970.

Of 10 state colleges with 1989 goals for freshmen minority enrollment, four, including the University of Maryland at College Park, were making progress toward reaching them in the fall of 1986; two were stable and four lost ground, board staff members said in a report presented to the board Tuesday.

The University of Maryland at College Park increased its black enrollment from 10.5 percent to 12.1 percent in 1986, the report said.

Bowie State College, a predominantly black institution, failed to make progress toward its goal of increasing the enrollment of white, Hispanic and Asian students. Bowie State was 89.7 percent black in 1985, but the figure increased to 91.4 percent last year.

Among the state's 19 community colleges, black freshmen enrollment generally reflected the population of the surrounding area, the study indicated. The Prince George's Community College freshmen enrollment last fall increased from 35 percent black in 1985 to 38 percent last year. The college was drawing on a pool of county high school graduates that was 48.9 percent black the previous spring.

At the three Montgomery College campuses, black enrollment increased from 10.7 percent to 14.5 percent of full-time freshmen.

The U.S. Department of Education intends to judge progress by a number of signs, including the recruiting of black students, racial makeup of faculty, and improvements in program and curriculum, said department spokesman Gary Curran.

Failure to meet goals in theory could lead to a cutoff of federal education subsidies -- in Maryland's case, $150 million annually -- but no state has been found to be in compliance yet and none has been denied funding.

Statewide, the percentage of black high school graduates in Maryland who go on to college in Maryland has dropped, from 28.7 percent in the fall of 1985 to 27.6 percent last fall, the state board found. In contrast, the percentage of white students going on to college has risen from 30.3 percent to 31.6 percent.

Retaining black students is another aim of the Maryland plan, and the board said colleges as a whole are improving their record of keeping students for a second year. If the trend continues, the state goal for retention will be met, the board was told. Four historically white schools -- Salisbury and Towson State, St. Mary's College and the University of Maryland Baltimore County -- have higher retention rates for blacks than for whites.