The first year of community college will be free for thousands of California students under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The signing announced Friday creates the "California College Promise" program. It waives course fees for a student's first year of classes. Students must apply for the fee waiver and take at least 12 credits per semester. Each unit now costs $46.

The community college system estimates 19,000 students would be eligible for the fee waiver, which will cost the state about $31 million annually. Roughly 1.6 million of the system's 2.3 million students already receive other financial aid.