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John Daley had already signed the leases for off-campus apartments for his two children attending Michigan State University when the institution changed its mind. On Aug. 18, just a few weeks before classes will begin, the university switched to remote instruction for fall semester and encouraged all undergraduate students to stay home.

“We’re told up until two days (before the switch) that they were opening and students can plan on coming to campus,” he said. “There’s the rub, because of the school’s prior communication about opening, students and parents committed and signed leases months ago.”

Daley said that there is no way to break the lease with private landlords. All in all, he’s on the hook for around $15,000 for rent and utilities for two apartments. “In my case I can cover it because I’m fortunate, but in many cases families can’t, and it’s a real issue,” he said.

It’s an issue that could affect tens of thousands of students in college towns around the country. In recent weeks, a handful of universities where many students live off-campus, including Johns Hopkins and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, have canceled most in-person instruction.