It won't be long before that first tuition payment is due. For those with recent high school grads, that day may be today. For those with younger children, don't let the Cheerios all over the highchair tray dissuade you from starting to save now.  

It won't be long before that first tuition payment is due.

For those with recent high school grads, that day may be today. For those with younger children, don't let the Cheerios all over the highchair tray dissuade you from starting to save now.   

Even in today's low-interest rate environment, college loans are very costly. For those with a great credit score, the interest rate for college loans is still far greater than what you would earn if you made a deposit in that same bank.   

Alternatives to the traditional tuition loan are few and far between, but here are a few suggestions:

Evaluate whether paying for college is really affordable for your family. A financial forecast illustrating the consequence of going into debt for college may tell you more than you expect. You may end up working forever or need to face the harsh reality of a major lifestyle change.   

This forecast may also be telling about what type of school you may need to consider for your child. Going to a private university may be the dream, but it also may not be the reality.     

This shouldn't be considered a setback for you or your child. For what it's worth, some of the most successful people that I know in the financial world are graduates of their home state university.

In fact, two years at the local community college is also a financially attractive alternative. Make a deal with your child that they can spend the final two years of their college life at the private university of their dreams if they are able to earn grades above a certain threshold.

If that threshold is high enough, like a 3.5 GPA or above, that private university may be willing to offer you a substantial reward for those grades, making the total four-year cost even less than what it would have been for four years at a state university.    

If you need money regardless of the choice of school, consider tapping your home equity. Today's rates for home equity loans are far more attractive than the rates for education loans. Of course, you'll need a good credit score and some home equity to tap into.     

Working with a financial aid counselor may also be helpful. It may be a bit late if freshman year starts this fall, but, hopefully, there are three more years to follow. Sometimes money is available from places that most parents never hear about.    

The last thought is for your child to borrow the funds. You may still choose to pay these loans after graduation if your financial situation improves.  

John P. Napolitano is the CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. He may be reached at jnap@uswealthcompanies.com .