Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. said yesterday he has reached an agreement with North Carolina officials on a desegregation plan to avert a cutoff of HEW funds to the state's university system.

Califano, who has already found himself a target of controversy in the state because of his anti-smoking campaign, called a press conference to announce the agreement with the University of North Carolina and Gov. James Hunt.

The desegregation plan was the result of a federal cout order requiring North Carolina and five other states to end vestiges of discrimination in higher education. The other states had all previously come to terms with HEW on the desegreation proposals.

Califano said the agreement contained these key features:

The university system will attempt to boost enrollment of blacks in each freshman class at its primarily white colleges from about 950 a year to 2,360 a year by 1982. White freshmen enrollment is about 11,000 a year at these institutions.

The university system by February 1979 will submit a proposal for boosting enrollment of black students in graduate schools.

The salaries of black faculty members will be equalized with those of whites in steps over the next five years.

New degree programs and avariety of other enlarged programs will be offered at the five traditionally black institutions in the sixteen-member university system.

Califano said that the negotiations had continued up until late last evening and he had had his final conversation with University President William Friday at 11 p.m. Thursday.

"There'll always be this tension between educational excellence and achievement of civil rights goals (but) they can go hand in hand," said Califano. Califano said that the North Carolina state board of governors had approved the plan at a meeting yesterday and that he had telephoned Gov. Hunt and President Friday and given HEW's greemeneto HEW's agreement to the plan. He said that if the plan came under legal attack by civil rights groups HEW would "absolutely" be prepared to defend it in court.