Washington Technical Institute, the city's two-year technical college, has placed about 1,800 of its students - more than 40 per cent of its total enrollment - on academic probation.

The action, taken as part of a tightening of academic standards at the public, open admissions school, has forced WTI to try to round up hundreds of new students to bring its enrollment closer to what is needed to justify the college's budget.

After its scheduled registration period ended two weeks ago, WHI had only about 2,200 full-time-equivalent students, compared to the 2,770 specified in its $12.2 million budget. Students on academic probation are allowed to enroll only as part-timers.

As a result, Dean Raleigh Allen said, some classes were cancelled and some faculty members were teaching less than their normal loads.

To boost enrollment, Allen said counselors at the college telephoned last week about 1,000 persons who had applied too late for the fall and winter term, asking them to join classes in the spring quarter, which already started March 30.

About 200 new students registered on Thursday, admissions officials said, and more can sign up on Monday.

WTI, which teaches vocational and technical courses ranging from aviation mechanics to embalming to secretarial science, divides its academic year into three 10-week quarters plus a summer session.

However, it is scheduled to switch to a two-semester calendar this fall to bring its operations in line with Federal City College and D.C. Teachers College, with which WTI has been merged to form the University of the District of Columbia. At present, each is still being separately administered.

Although WTI opened in 1968, this is the first year it has imposed a strict academic probation system based on letter grades (ranging from A to F). Previously, it had used a pass-fail marking system, with an optional grade of "high pass."

"We made the change in an effort to improve ourselves qualitatively," Allen said.

The change coincided with charges by the Veterans Administration that 40 per cent of the veterans studying at WTI had collected GI Bill benefits for courses they did not complete.

VA officials said that since the college had no attendance requirements and no clearly enforced rules on how many courses had to be passed to remain in good standing many veterans took the same courses repeatedly and continued to receive GI benefits.

Faculty members said may non-VA benefit students also took courses, dropped then and took them again, order to continue receiving Basic Education Opportunity Grant from the federal government. These grants, for up to $800 per student per year at WTI are based entirly on economic need, not on scholarship.

This year, incomplete grades count as failures at WTI and students must maintain at least a C-minus average every term in order to avoid proation. Those on probation can take mal full load of five. Under the new rules, if low grades persist for more one term, a student is suspended.

"It used to be that half the students term, Eli Rosenfield, and assistant in a class would disappear by mid-only three courses instead of the nor-mathematics professor, said yesterday. "Now attendance is much better. The students are much better motivated."

In addition to the impact of the new academic probation rules, enrollment at WTI has been cut this year by a decline in the number of veterans attending, which is part of a nationwide pattern. Last year, WTI had 1,437 veterans, accounting for almost half of its male enrollment. Last fell there were 922 veterans, and the number has dropped more since.

The decision to reopen registration and seek more students was announced to the faculty earlier this week by Allen and WTI president Cleveland Dennard.

Marine science professor Albert J. Jones said it drew sharp opposition from faculty members who feel it will be difficult to accept new students into courses in which three or four classes already have been held. He said it also will force some professors to teach an extra basic course for new students in addition to advanced sections, which the school continues to offer even though enrollment is down.

Jones said it will also be difficult for the new students to go from their one-quarter courses to the semester system that starts in the fall.

"I think it's ridiculous," Jones said, "but we were told the college has to do it in order to justify its budget. We just have to accept what's been decided."

Dennard could not be reached for comment.