(CNN)When David Carter started his art major at The University of Texas at Austin in 1971, he had big dreams of becoming an artist or writer.
After four decades, a homeless man is returning to college to finish his degree -- and his tuition will be paid
But, after he severely damaged his hand punching a glass window in an incident related to alcohol, he dropped out of university at 23.
He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent several years without a permanent home, falling into substance and alcohol abuse. Now, thanks to the tenacity of a local student, Carter will have a second chance to finish his degree.
"What I'd like to do is spend the rest of my life just doing research and writing books," Carter told CNN affiliate Spectrum News Austin. "But I think the books I write will be better because of the college education and coming into contact with the great minds."
Journalism junior Ryan Chandler said he met Carter during an assignment on homelessness for The Daily Texan. "I interviewed him as a source on Austin's homeless problems, and after I heard how inspiring his story was, we kept in touch and really became friends. I learned of his desire to get back to UT, so I helped him along that very complex and bureaucratic process."
"He (had) accumulated 87 hours, very close to a degree," said Chandler. "He has always wanted to go back, but hasn't had the financial or organizational means to do so ever since."
"Now, with changing degree requirements, he requires 64 hours for the same degree he originally pursued; studio art."
With the help of Chandler, who worked with the university admissions office, Carter was assigned an adviser by UT's College of Fine Arts.
"It's the greatest blessing I've ever received," Carter told Spectrum News Austin. "He did what had to be done to get me enrolled in those classes, and I couldn't have done it without him."
After seeing a magazine article about Carter, a UT Austin alumnus decided to pay his tuition fees. "He wants to remain anonymous and says it is because he values the importance of second chances and education," said Chandler.
Doug Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said in a statement that the school would be looking to help Carter in any way it could.
"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," the statement said.