Sister of student denied sufficient financial aid after father’s death pens letter to university


Kiersten James, sister of University of Miami student Robert Arnold, posted an open letter to the university and President Julio Frenk on her Facebook account Friday night, detailing the hardships her family faced during and after her father’s battle with brain cancer and how Arnold was denied additional financial aid after his father died.

Arnold, a biomedical engineering major, will have to return to his home state of New York and attend a local state university there if UM does not increase his financial aid package. The Miami Hurricane has reached out to both James and Arnold for more information.

The full text of James’ post is available here:

“An open letter to University of Miami and Dr. Julio Frenk:

My brother attends your university as a proud student representing the UM Hurricanes. His current major is Biomedical Engineering. One day, he hopes to work towards the cure of cancer and other terminal illnesses with agencies such as the CDC and NIH. After applying to many institutions, he felt the University of Miami was the best choice for him both academically and professionally. It would give him a strong foundation to go on to a bigger, brighter future as so many before him have. 

Unfortunately, during his freshman year, our father was in the last stages of fighting for his life with a very aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma. Every weekend, my brother flew home to Long Island to be with us returning in time for his classes on Monday. Dad passed away February 18, 2015 at 2:30am while he was in Miami tending to academics. All the while, holding excellent grades in every semester attended…no leave of absence or request for extensions was submitted.
My father was the breadwinner of the family with his own networking/IT business and, at one time, gave us an affluent life; much like a greater population of the student body at Miami. With his death brought us losing our house, living on disability checks, and Medicaid benefits. The house we lived in as well as the sale of his business were supposed to be our security and my parent’s retirement.With all of this taken into consideration, your University denied my brother the additional financial aid he needs to complete his study at the University of Miami. His appeals were denied. He was told “there is nothing further we can do”. As a result, he is forced to leave your institution and return home to a local state university to live with his widowed mother in Selden, NY

According to the 2015 President’s Report, “total operating revenue increased by $131.2 million, or 5.1 percent”. I find it disgraceful that a business of your size cannot seem to find the additional $20,000 needed for him to complete his much deserved goal after everything he’s endured thus far…alone, and 1,500 miles from home.

I am not a writer or looking for gains. I am a registered nurse who works in an oncology center treating families stricken with the same trauma we were faced, except this time I can pay back my regrets and mistakes by taking care of others in ways I could not care for my own father. More importantly, I write as my brother’s older sister asking for him to have a chance. I ask that you open up his case one last time and reconsider letting him heal through fighting cancer with a foundation and degree from the University of Miami.

Warm regards,

Kiersten James, RN”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Correction, Oct. 4, 2016: The headline of this story was changed from “Sister of student denied financial aid after father’s death pens letter to university” to “Sister of student denied sufficient financial aid …” The correction was made to better reflect that only a portion of the student’s aid package was denied, not the whole thing. 



  1. Professor Michael Granata on

    As a alumni of the University of Miami I too am surprised. President Frank has spoken eloquently about enrolling qualified students who don’t have the financial resources to attend our university. It therefor makes sense that if we already have a fine student such as your brother already enrolled that we immediately find the resources to keep him here. I feel very confident that Dr. Frenk will find a solution and the University of Miami will come through during your families hour of need.

  2. After reading this article I am in complete shock. As a student at the University of Miami, I am extremely surprised that this took place on our campus. I think that President Frank, and the University should seriously consider giving Arnold the additional financial aid he needs.