If you're looking for a way to finance college costs for your child without taking out a lot of costly—and hard to discharge—student loans, there may be more alternatives than you think. Student loans are easy to take out, so finding an alternative (or two or three) may require some additional effort. But the reward can be tremendous. Here are five alternative financing methods for any parent.

Scholarships. Just about every school, both high schools and colleges, has a list of scholarships that students can apply for. Make use of that list to apply for anything and everything that your child has any chance at qualifying for. In addition, seek out other sources of scholarships based on your memberships or associations, such as scholarships from credit unions or banks, business organizations, local charities, church groups, or ethnic societies. Start your efforts by filling out the FAFSA student-aid application and accepting any cost-free Pell Grants offered. 

Peer-to-Peer Lending. If you have fair credit, one of the best ways to get a personal loan is through the relatively new process of peer-to-peer lending. Peer-to-peer lending is a service that consolidates small loans by a lot of individual investors into one large loan you can take out. Peer-to-peer lenders generally offer better rates to those with average-to-good credit scores than can be found through other means. Some lending services now specialize in college loans. Talk to companies such as Crossroads Investment Lending for more information about peer-to-peer lending. 

0% Cards. Charging college costs to a credit card is usually a very bad idea. The exception is when you can use free money for a long period of time. If you have good credit, you may already have access to 0% offers for 8, 12, or 24 months on existing or new credit cards. There is generally a fee for accessing the offer, but it may be very minimal. These offers are great for charging books and equipment as well as paying for community college tuition, as it is charged each semester. Just be certain that you can and will pay off the amount before the special rate expires. 

Waiting. Waiting an extra year or two can allow both you and your student to save money to help pay for college. This can be especially important for students who aren't certain of their career goals yet or who want to help pay their own way. Families with multiple kids can also benefit from being a little more patient so that finances can recover from sending one kid off to school before the next one needs help. If you decide to wait before having your child restart schooling, be sure to have a target date planned so that your plans don't get sidetracked. 

Home Equity. Homeowners often have access to a source of low-cost loans—the equity in the home. Home-equity loans usually come with very low interest rates and have a repayment period of between 5 and 30 years. The only downside to such loans is that they are tied to your house, so you put your house at some risk if you fail to make the payments. 

By knowing how to seek out alternatives to complex and expensive student loans, you can help reduce the stress and overall burden of sending one or more kids off to school this fall.