A tenacious young college student has given a homeless man a second lease on life thanks to a simple school assignment.

Ryan Chandler, who is a junior-year journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin, first spoke to the panhandler as a means of interviewing him for a class project on homelessness – and Chandler was stunned by the conversation that ensued.

Chandler opted to interview David Carter, a homeless man who is commonly seen around the school campus – and he learned that the 65-year-old homeless man used to be a student at the very same university.

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Carter first enrolled in the school’s arts program in 1971. He dreamed of using his degree to become a great artist or writer – but after dealing with a number of mental health issues and substance abuse, he was forced to drop out several years later.

Carter then spent the next four decades coping with schizophrenia, homelessness and addiction. Though he spent some time hitchhiking around the country, he later returned to Austin so he could care for his ailing parents.

After he returned to the city, he liked to spend time around the UT Austin campus because he dreamt of the day he would eventually be able to reenroll and finish his degree in studio arts.


Thankfully, Carter was able to qualify for stable housing through a local nonprofit six years ago. With a roof over his head, Carter tried to reenroll at UT Austin several times – but because he did not have access to a computer or money for the application fees, he was never accepted.

After Chandler heard his story, however, the 20-year-old journalism student resolved to help the homeless man get back into school.

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Over the course of the last six months since their initial interview, Chandler has worked with college administrators to get his new friend reenrolled. He managed to get a hold of Carter’s transcripts and found that the former student had already racked up 87 credit hours, leaving him with only 64 credit hours to go before he could earn his degree.

Finally, after almost half a year of jumping through hoops, Carter was accepted into UT’s College of Fine Arts.


Chandler was initially planning on starting a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Carter’s tuition – but an anonymous UT Austin alumni offered to pay for Carter’s education after they read about his struggles in the school’s online magazine.

Needless to say, Carter has been overwhelmed by the sudden surge of support.

“It’s the greatest blessing I’ve ever received,” Carter told Spectrum Local News. “[Chandler] did what had to be done to get me enrolled in those classes, and I couldn’t have done it without him.

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“What I’d like to do is spend the rest of my life just doing research and writing books,” he added, “But I think the books I write will be better because of the college education and coming into contact with the great minds.”

Doug Dempster, who is the dean of the College of Fine Arts, commended his new student in a statement saying: “David Carter’s resolve to complete his degree is testament to finishing well what was started, and interrupted, even decades earlier. We welcome him back as we do many students each year whose education took a less direct path. We admire his courage and persistence.

“We’re going to give him every assistance to help him through his remaining course work. We’re grateful for the generosity of fellow Longhorns who are stepping up to support Mr. Carter,” he added.

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  1. While it is all well and good to say you don’t need a college diploma. For some careers that is absolutely true. And for some people college is not the right path. It is all about choice. For some college is the right path, it is their passion and what they need to do to be whole. How often do we read of seniors finally completing their degrees because when they were young, they were forced to drop out and pursue a trade. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that is what you want to do. Forcing someone to be a plumber when they want to be a journalist is as bad as forcing someone to be a journalist when they want to be a plumber. Or carpenter. Or lawyer. For some jobs a degree is essential. For others, trade school or apprenticeships are the correct way to go. The biggest mistake public education made was in taking away all of the skills classes and directing all students into a college bound track. No, it is not for everyone. But likewise, a trade is not for everyone either. It is a shame David Carter did not have the resources 40 years ago that are available now for students that are challenged with mental, housing, financial or other barriers blocking them from their goal. How wonderful, generous and kind are those that have allowed him to finally realize his dream.

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