ANNAPOLIS -- A top-notch higher education system is essential if Maryland is to become a center for high-technology industries, computer whiz Steven P. Jobs told Gov. William Donald Schaefer and a group of educators and business leaders last week.

Jobs cofounded Apple Computer when he was 21 and has formed a new company, Next, to develop computers specifically for higher education. He was the guest at a breakfast at the governor's mansion arranged by John Toll, president of the University of Maryland.

Jobs said Maryland has a great higher education system, "but it is not leading edge."

Turning to Toll, he said the University of Maryland "is not in the top five. Is that fair?"

Toll agreed with that assessment.

Told that Maryland ranks sixth among the states in per capita income and 37th in funding for higher education, Jobs asked his listeners, "What does that say about the picture? An investment in higher education is going to pay phenomenal dividends."

Noting that Maryland is prepared to build two new sports stadiums, Jobs said, "Investment in higher education is an investment in sports stadiums for the mind."

Schaefer responded that he has not "been pleased with education for a long time."

He said he is prepared to boost spending for colleges and universities, but only if they work with him to revamp the governance of higher education by putting all four-year public colleges and universities under a single board of regents.

"I'm not going to go for a whole lot more money until that governance is in place," Schaefer said.

The governor has said that one of his major goals at the 1988 legislative session will be to revise the governance of higher education.

Presidents of all four-year public colleges except St. Mary's and Morgan State signed off on a plan to create a state board of regents to run the college system. Individual institutions would have their own boards to handle day-to-day operations within the guidelines and goals established by the state board.

Jobs did not directly criticize Maryland colleges or offer specific suggestions as to what the state should do to improve its higher education system.

A major long-term economic development goal for Maryland is to develop high-tech industries in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Jobs said every successful high-tech center in the county, such as California's famed Silicon Valley, has sprung up around outstanding colleges and universities.

Higher education, venture capital and large corporations that can furnish mid-level managers are the three necessary ingredients to develop as a high-tech center, he said.