Those who live in rural areas and travel long distances to college are being hit hardest. One student governor at a Leicestershire college is claiming nearly pound;100 for the 17 meetings he has attended during his first year as a governor.
"I have attended every meeting that I have had to attend except one when I was on holiday. It's a 20-mile round trip by car from where I live and I am only claiming 30p a mile. A friend of mine who is a school governor gets 42p a mile."
But the college say only expenses agreed prior to being incurred are payable and that travel to college-based meetings would not be included.
He said the message the board was sending out to people thinking of becoming college governors was "don't bother".
"I'm not asking for a lot - all I want is travel expenses. Basically if the college isn't prepared to support students who have no income then obviously they can't do their job."
Robin Jones, of the Association of College Registrars and Administrators, and clerk of Waltham Forest College, said he believed his to be an isolated case and that the majority of colleges routinely reimbursed student governors their travelling costs.
"One of the first things my college agreed after incorporation was that no members should find themselves out of pocket as a result of membership of the corporation."
Under new Further Education Funding Council regulations every college should have at least one, and up to three, student governors.
But the National Union of Students, which is midway through a survey of student representation on college boards, estimates that just 40 per cent of colleges have a serving student governor.
The union has written to the principal of New College, Nottingham, Pat Morgan Webb asking her to co-opt a student governor after she commented that sitting on a board with business people could be "a bit demanding" for an 18-year old.
NUS spokesperson Richard Darlington said her attitude was "disappointing". He said: "It's a large college with a principal who has recently been honoured but it won't have a student governor on its board.
"I am surprised that the principal of such a high-profile college would be quite so much against having student governors."