Student helps panhandler go back to college after he dropped out more than 40 years ago

By Caitlin O'Kane

/ CBS News

David Carter stands outside of the University of Texas' Austin campus every day, offering the same warm greeting to students who pass by, "Hello, my friend!" He's a panhandler who once went to the university, but fell on hard times.

Carter, now 67, attended the school from 1972 to 1975 as a studio art major. Then, he was involved in a crash, and his life took a turn. "I had a skull fracture, a broken pelvis and a broken jaw," Carter told CBS affiliate KEYE-TV.

He then had trouble with substance abuse and faced mental health challenges, leading him to drop out before completing his degree.

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"If I could change one thing about my past life, I would have stayed in school," Carter said. He said he knows an education can change someone's quality of life.

Carter resorted to panhandling in the last few years for a simple reason. "I'm always flat broke," he said. While most people would walk right by a panhandler, one student at the university decided to stop and chat with Carter – and he learned a valuable lesson: you can't judge a book by its cover.

Ryan Chandler, a junior at the University of Texas, met David Carter and helped him get back into college. KEYE-TV

"A lot of UT students see them as criminal vagrants or stereotype them as dangerous or unfriendly, and that stereotype just isn't true," Ryan Chandler, a junior at the school, to KEYE-TV.

Chandler got to know Carter and saw his potential. "He completed 87 hours of course credit, which is enough for a degree for most people, but he just never finished," Chandler said.

The student wrote a blog post about his new pal, and luckily, the right people heard about Carter and stepped in to help.

The University of Texas readmitted Carter as a student — more than 40 years after he last attended the school. And an anonymous alumnus stepped up to the plate to pay Carter's tuition, KEYE-TV reported.

His first day of school is Thursday, June 6. "I want to be a student and I want to learn," Carter said.

Since the course requirements have changed, Carter is far from having the amount of credits needed to graduate. But his friend knows he's up for the challenge. "He is capable, he is ready, and he is dedicated to do this," Chandler said.

Now, instead of saying his signature greeting – "Hello, my friend" – to students on the street, he can say hi to them in the classroom.

screen-shot-2019-06-06-at-8-55-50-am.png
An anonymous alumnus stepped up to pay for David Carter's tuition. KEYE-TV

First published on June 6, 2019 / 10:49 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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