Colleges are to be twinned over the next few months to help collect evidence in the funding argument.
The scheme, supported by the Further Education Funding Council and overseen by its Tariff Advisory Committee, will match colleges of similar types, curriculum programmes, student profiles and in similar locations but with differing average levels of funding - the amount colleges receive per student unit.
They will have to answer a detailed questionnaire on their finances and management.
One-off matching arrangements have existed between colleges before now but this is the first attempt to achieve a national picture.
A spokesman for the FEFC said: "Colleges constantly tell us that they have high costs that we should recognise. They haven't been able to produce any evidence so far that this is the case.
"If there is evidence we want to know about it and if the council found that there were sound reasons why a college should have more than another then it would have an impact on how the council funds colleges. We hope finally to lay to rest this argument that there are inherent costs we should recognise."