The number of blacks attending college has more than tripled in the last decade while tht number of whites in college has risen by 51 percent, according to new federal government statistics.

During that time the number of women in college almost doubled while the number of men climbed by 39 percent.

As a result of these changes, about half of high school graduates, regardless of race or sex, now go on to college.

However, the proportion of blacks completing high school is still less than whites. And, there are proportionately more blacks who drop out of college. The gaps in both cases have narrowed, however.

The graduation rates of women from both high school and college have been about the same as those of men for many years.

The statistics were gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education statistics, which released them yesterday.

A commentary in the report and interviews with college officials indicate that the increase in blacks and women attending college reflects the impact of the civil rights movement and the drive for women's equality as well as affirmative action programs, pushed by the federal government and by colleges.

"Traditionally, colleges have been bastionsof white males," said Jud Samon, assistant director of admissions at the University of Maryland.

"But in the past years minority students have gotten financial support through the government and they've been heavily recruited."

"There is a new equality and egalitarianism within families," said Harvard sociologist David Riesman. "Women are getting more encouragement and support to continue in school instead of getting married. Families didn't think it was worthwhile to send a girl to college before because she'd get married. Now they are sending her to school."

According to census statistics the number of blacks attending college number of blacks attending college rose from 282,000 in 1966 to 1,062,000 in 1976 -- an increase of 275 per cent.

The number of black women in college rose more than four fold, the census said, while the number of blackmen more than tripled.

Indeed, the number of back women college students now exceeds the number of black men in college by 84,000.

Among whites, there are 672,000 more college men, than women. This overall figure includes enrollment in graduate schools where men still predominate. However, among students aged 18 to 21, the usual age for undergraduates, there were slightly more women in college last year than men.

Overall, the number of women in colleges rose from 2.3 million in 1966 to almost 4.6 million in 1976. The number of college men increased during the same 10 years from 3.7 million to 5.1 million.

Since 1975, however, the number of men attending college has declined slightly. The proportion of male high school graduates going on for higher education actually has fallen back to 50 percent, said Larry Suter, the chief of the education statistics branch of the census bureau.

Suter said the 50 percent rate of male high school graduates going on to college had been steady from the early 1950s until the Vietnam War, when it rose to a high of 60 percent. Suter said the wartime increase was caused by some men going tao college to avoid the draft while others were able to enroll after serving in the military because veterans benefits.

Meanwhile, Suter said the proportion of women high school graduates going to colege has climbed steadily from 35 percent in 1965 to 46 percent in 1970 to 49 percent last year. For blacks the rise was steeper -- from 37 percent of high school graduates going to college in 1970 to 50 per cent enrolling last year.

LaHugh Blankston, acting director of admissions at the University of the District of Columbia, said his college now is attracting fewer men than women.

"Probably some men are choosing not to go to college," he said, "because they've heard that some graduates didn't get jobs and they've decided that college isn't worth it."

William Sherill, dean of admissions at Howard University, said the increase in black enrollment nationwide occured because of federal aid programs and because of "HEW or civil rights guidelines (and) affirmative action plans, which forced colleges to take an interest."

Despite the increase, the proportion of blacks aged 18 to 24 enrolled in college was 20 percent in 1976 -- considerably less than the 27 percent of whites in the same age group.

Suter said the difference was caused primarily by the smaller proportion of blacks completing high school -- 74 percent now do so by their mid-20s compared to 86 percent for whites.

In addition, Suter said only about 39 percent of blacks who go to college for a year eventually graduate compared to a 57 percent graduation rate for whites.