After training accountants in downtown Washington for 80 years, Benjamin Franklin University will close this month -- a victim of changing educational standards and a bitter feud between the heirs of its founder and the school's trustees.

The school, at 1100 16th St. NW, has about 8,000 graduates, including bank presidents, top FBI officials and a large corps of corporate executives. But its traditional degrees -- the BCS and MCS (bachelor of commercial science and master of commercial science) -- have lost their cachet. A decision to change them several years ago to the standard BS and MA degrees led to accreditation problems.

Recently, state accountancy boards have imposed new requirements, and meeting them by adding more liberal arts courses and more full-time faculty members would cost more than the school can afford.

"We're a single-discipline school," said Joseph P. Gamble, vice chairman of the Ben Franklin Board of Trustees. He said the new accreditation standards "would require more investment . . . and a broader curriculum. We reached the conclusion that probably isn't feasible."

Ben Franklin's last group of about 300 students has been offered admission, if they qualify, to George Washington University, officials of the two schools have announced. The students will be charged $4,050 a year -- close to the relatively low tuition they paid to Ben Franklin, compared with the $9,006 regularly charged this year by George Washington.

In turn, Benjamin Franklin's trustees are donating its assets -- about $900,000 in investments, books and equipment -- to George Washington, which said it intends to use Franklin's name for any accountancy school it may establish.

The two adjoining four-story buildings that Ben Franklin occupies, assessed by the District government at $2.2 million, are not involved in the arrangements with George Washington. But the buildings are a key element in the decision to close the school.

The buildings are owned by Marthajane Kennedy, who served as president of Ben Franklin from 1981 to May 1986. Previously, her parents had headed the school since 1925. During a protracted struggle with the board, Kennedy said she decided to raise the school's traditionally low rent up to market value or have the school leave when its lease expires next year.

Shortly after the trustees announced in March that they had started merger discussions with George Washington, the property was listed with a rental agent. So far no new tenant has been found.

Kennedy, who is unmarried and in her sixties, said she had planned to leave the buildings and other property to the school when she died. Now she has cut the school out of her will.

"I didn't expect to be president forever," Kennedy said. "But I did expect to be treated by the board as their equal. It just got to be one insult after another from them to me and my mother. I decided I had to reorganize my life."

Gamble, a 1951 Ben Franklin graduate who is president of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of the National Capital Area, said Kennedy resigned as university president "by mutual agreement." He said he did not wish to comment on her relations with the board. The chairman of the trustees, E. Lewis Pardee, of Collingswood, N.J., could not be reached for comment.

"We've had a number of problems that seemed to culminate at one time, the problems with the accountancy boards, the lease and the need to find a new president," Gamble said. The school has been headed by an acting president, Reza Afshar, since Kennedy's departure. "We feel the {agreement} with George Washington is the most viable option," Gamble continued. "We have protected the students at a tuition level that is appropriate and we will perpetuate Ben Franklin's primary commitments."

Founded as the Pace Institute in 1907, the school was purchased in 1925 by John T. Kennedy and reorganized that year as Benjamin Franklin University, a nonprofit institution. Kennedy, a lawyer who headed the first training programs for the Internal Revenue Service, served as president until he died in 1958. His widow, Clephane, who lives in Bethesda, took over the post until she retired at age 84 in 1981.

At its peak in the late 1940s, Ben Franklin enrolled about 2,300 students, mostly in evening classes. The number dwindled until the past few years when its day classes expanded with the availability of federal student aid and an influx of foreign students. The school primarily prepared them to become certified public accountants.

Officials of both the Maryland and Virginia accountancy boards said the pass rate of Ben Franklin students on the CPA examination has remained high in recent years. But both boards have added new requirements that would prevent the school's graduates from taking the exams.

Ben Franklin is accredited by the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, composed mainly of proprietary business training schools. Under the new requirements, which will go into effect next year, the only persons allowed to take the CPA exams in Maryland and Virginia will be graduates of colleges with full academic accreditation, offered in this area by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

George Sparks Jr., chairman of the Maryland accountancy board, said the change was made to "upgrade the profession generally . . . . It's a matter of bringing them up to the level required today." The accountancy board in the District has not changed its accreditation requirements, but Gamble said the university felt it must meet the standards of all three area jurisdictions.

When Ben Franklin first changed its BCS degree to a BS in 1980 it ran afoul of the District's Educational Institution Licensure Commission, which said its program was too limited. Eventually, the commission sanctioned the new degrees, but Middle States would require an even broader liberal arts program and a permanent faculty.

Almost all of Ben Franklin's 37 faculty members are accountants and lawyers who teach part-time, though some have worked there for more than a decade.

"They've rendered a meaningful contribution as an accounting school for many years," said George Arnstein, an education consultant and former member of the licensure panel. "But they couldn't achieve . . . the broadened educational goals. I'm glad they're making an orderly exit."