Fears are growing that more public investment and a bigger contribution from employers will be needed if key parts of the government's Success for All initiative are to survive.
Concern is mounting over the viability of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership and the lifelong learning sector skills council - organisations key to the Government's drive to boost performance in post-16 education.
The centre for excellence's first national conference this week heard that fees are one of the biggest worries, especially for small colleges.
Similar concerns were expressed at the Association for College Management's annual conference last week, where there were calls for the Government to rethink making the organisation self-financing after its first three years.
Courses cost as much as pound;6,000-a-head and could be the first things to go in cash-strapped colleges already freezing lecturers' pay rises and cutting basic skills courses to break even.
The pound;6,000 course for aspiring principals is part-time over 15 months. It includes nine residential sessions.
Peter Pendle, general secretary of the Association for College Management, warned that it is likely to be the colleges which most need to improve their managers' skills which will be among the least able to afford the centre's courses.
He told FE Focus: "We want the centre to have funding. Unfortunately if a college has problems and has to look for an area of activity it can cut easily, staff development is one of those areas which tends to be got rid of. And I'm afraid it is often the colleges which need the staff development most - the ones which are in trouble - which are the ones which can't afford to pay for it."
Lynne Sedgmore, who becomes chief executive of the centre later this month, said she hopes the prospect of continued government funding after three years is "still open to debate" but stressed its fees compare well with management development programmes in the private sector.
She said: "I'm not shying away from this as an issue and, when I'm in post, I will be looking at it.
"I know affordability is an issue. But we in the sector are always saying private industry should invest in its workforce and we have to do the same."
The lifelong learning sector skills council will fail if it does not get more support from the employers it is supposed to represent, according to David Hunter, one of its leading proponents, who spoke at the ACM's annual conference last week.
Mr Hunter, who chairs the Further Education National Training Organisation, said: "Success for All will stand or fall on on how well the Centre for Excellence in Leadership works and how well the sector skills council works. If either doesn't work properly, the policy is in shreds.
"It is so important that employers take this up, otherwise we will lose control and we will be controlled by departments and other outside agencies."
Success for All is the Government's plan for post-16 education and training, aimed at improving the effectiveness of colleges and other training organisations outside the university sector.