ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Advocates are pressuring the University of New Mexico to give final approval on a plan to issue Chicano Studies graduate degrees.

Activists recently gathered signatures for petitions to convince the school's Provost's Office to forward the proposal to the Faculty Senate by April 18. That way the university can launch its graduate program next year.

Pamela Cheek, Interim Associate Provost for Curriculum and Assessment, says the office is evaluating the proposals.

Chicana and Chicano Studies became an official department at the school two years ago amid pressure from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to get state colleges to cut the number of hours needed to earn a degree.

The University of New Mexico's program is part of a nationwide movement to expand ethnic studies at colleges and in high schools.