An improved 3.2 per cent pay offer is this week being considered by unions representing lecturers and non-teaching staff.
The Association for College Management has already said it will recommend its members accept the offer.
The new money, an improvement on the initial 2.5 per cent rise proposed by the Association of Colleges, comes with a twist - it would be implemented from October instead of August.
There would also be a guarantee that all staff would get at least a pound;550 rise, ensuring a better deal for the lowest paid.
The proposal compares with the retail price index inflation rate of 4.3 per cent and the consumer price index (excluding mortgage rates) of 3.3 per cent.
Peter Pendle, general secretary of the ACM, one of six unions in the talks, said: "We are very pleased with the offer and will be going to our members with a clear recommendation that it should be accepted."
While the offer falls short of the 6 per cent claim, it does achieve one of the objectives of the unions in reducing the pay gap with teachers, who were offered 2.45 per cent.
Unison, which represents 25,000 support staff in FE, said it would ballot members after deciding whether to recommend the deal.
Its decision is likely to influence the University and College Union, representing lecturers, because the unions believe strike action is likely to have more impact if they act together.
Evan Williams, head of employment policy at the AoC, said: "This improved recommendation provides an element of underpinning for the lowest-paid staff.
"AoC firmly believes this a realistic recommendation and one that can be considered seriously by all concerned."
A one-day strike by college staff in April, timed to coincide with industrial action by schoolteachers, is credited by the unions with securing the improved pay offer.
If this new deal is rejected, there are plans to escalate action with a two-day strike in September.
National pay agreements in further education are not binding on individual colleges.
Mismatched on strikes, page 4.