"Of all pre-college curricula, the highest level of mathematics one studies in secondary school has the strongest continuing influence on bachelor's degree completion. Finishing a course beyond the level of Algebra 2 (for example, trigonometry or pre-calculus) more than doubles the odds that a student who enters postsecondary education will complete a bachelor's degree. [pp. 16-18]"
First, there was a story about curriculum, the content of schooling, that was compelling in its secondary school dimensions in the original Tool Box, and is even more compelling now on both secondary and postsecondary stages. What you study, how much of it, how deeply, and how intensely has a great deal to do with degree completion.
Second, this curriculum story, joined by nuances of attendance patterns that turn out to have significant leverage, continues into higher education.
It’s not merely getting beyond Algebra 2 in high school any more: The world demands advanced quantitative literacy, and no matter what a student’s postsecondary field of study—from occupationally-oriented programs through traditional liberal arts— more than a ceremonial visit to college-level mathematics is called for.
The Toolbox Revisited http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/toolboxrevisit/index.html
Paths to Degree Completion from High School Through College