The failure to inject more cash into Wales' hard-pressed further education colleges could spell large-scale staff cuts and trigger a damaging deficit.
John Graystone, chief executive of Wales' further education representative body Fforwm, told its annual conference that the national assembly's budget plans could cause 200 job cuts and a reduction in part-time hours.
Mr Graystone said he "welcomed" the assembly's decision to increase its cash settlement by pound;8 million - to be split between colleges and sixth forms.
But the extra cash would be swallowed up by FE colleges' increased national insurance and pension contributions. "We felt we had a very strong case for getting a significant chunk of that money," he said.