The Department of Health, Education and Welfare had told Virginia Gov. Mill E. Godwin Jr. that his state's plan to desegregate its publicly supported colleges and universities is unacceptable and faces federel rejection.

As a result, HEW officials said yesterday, they will be forced to consider withholding from Virginia millions of dollars in federal aid for higher education unless Gov-elect John N. Dalton, due to take office next month, is prepared to submit an acceptable plan within 30 days.

One HEW source said yesterday that, alone among the desegregation plans submitted by six states pursuant to a court order issued earlier this year, Virginia's plan was so unacceptable that NEW officals were convinced there was no point in attempting to negotiate changes in the plan with the Godwin administration.

HEW's position was detailed in a letter to Godwin written last week by David S.Tatel, direction of HEW's Office for Civil Rights. Tatel wrote that Virginia's plan does not meet federal desegregation in Virginia and five other states and set a deadline of Jan. 4, 1978,for HEW's acceptance or rejection of each state's plans.

Essentially, the HEW guidelines require the six states to increase the numbers of blacks enrolled at predominantly white colleges and the number of whites at predominantly black colleges and to set forth numerical goals and timetables four doing so. They require that the last vestiges of state-sanctioned segregation be eliminated within five years, while insuring the continued existence of historically black colleges.

A source at HEW said yesterday that the desegregation plans submitted by the five other states involved - Arkansas, Florida, Georgia North Carolina and Okalhoma - also failed to meet the HEW guidelines. But comings in the plans of those states can be ironed out in negotiations over the next 30 days.

In his letter to Godwin, Tatel noted that "some progress" has been made in desegregating the state's institutions of higher learning. But he added that "Virginia's colleges and universities still bear the vestiges of the former dual system."

Tatel said only 36.9 per cent of black high school graduates attend Virginia's colleges, as opposed to 53.9 per cent of White Virginia high school graduates. In addition, Tatel wrote, most of the blacks who do attend Virginia's public colleges and universities enter two-year community collleges or the traditionally black universities. Tatelnoted that, while almost 17 per cent of the state's university students are black, only 5 per cent of these are enrolled in what have been in the past the traditionally white four-year colleges or graduate schools.

Tatel, whose office is responsible for enforcing the various civil rights acts passed by the Congress as they relate to HEW> also said in his letter to Godwin that the faculties at both white and black state institutions had not been desegregated and that the state's plan "does not provide numerical goals or specific measures" to rectify the situation.

Tatel said the state has continued to duplicate programs at traditionally black and white universities that draw their students from the same geographic areas, a policy that NEW believes is harmful. Instead, Virginia should strengthen the schools' academic programs to attract both white and black students, according to the agency.

"The fact that traditionally white Old Dominion University is located in the same city as traditionally black Norfolk State College and offers similar academic programs is a classic example of the continuance of the racially dual structure," Tatel wrote. The vast majority of the state's 15,700 black college students - 10,590 are enrolled at these two schools.

Godwin, who declined to comment yesterday, has argued in the past that the "goals" in the HEW regulations are really "quotas" and says he cannot permit federal participation in the desegregation process. Godwon says the state is committed to "equal opportunity in higher education" and that it had made substantial progress in desegregating its colleges in the last two years.

Gov.-elect Dalton could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his statements during the gubernatorial campaign indicate that he has taken much the same position as Godwin on the issue.