Maryland Gov. Blair Lee III announced yesterday that he had ordered state four-year colleges and universities not to raise student tuitions for the 1978-79 school year.

Lee told reporters at his weekly news conference that the institutions should "lay off" the increases because rapidly rising costs threaten to put public higher education out of the reach of many Marylanders.

He also said he planned to transfer to the educational institutions' budgets enough money from the $123 million state budget surplus to prevent the need for tuition boosts.

Asked how much that would be. Lee said: "It depends on who you ask."

Last August, the University of Maryland board of regents voted to raise undergraduate tuition by 10 per cent. That would have meant a $60 annual increase over the current yearly tuition of $610 for in-state students at the College Park, Baltimore City and Baltimore County campuses and a $75 increase at the Eastern Shore campus.

Out-of-state students would have been forced to pay $200 more, thus raising their tuitions to $2,219 at College Park, Baltimore City and Baltimore County and $1,520 at the Eastern Shore campus.

Many students had protested the tuition increase to the regents and University of Maryland student lobbyists were gearing up for an intensive attack on the tuition boost during the 1978 legislative session. Student lobbyists at the College Park campus recently urged Lee in a letter to transfer surplus funds to avert a tuition increase.