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Here comes another best-colleges ranking: U.S. News & World Report’s

The University of Minnesota and six Minnesota liberal-arts colleges make the magazine’s top 100 list.

What a difference a day or two can make in college and university rankings. On Tuesday, my blog ran a Christian Science Monitor story about a college-rating system from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni that flunked Yale for its relative lack of general-education requirements. The organization rates schools on the degree to which they require the study of seven core subjects.

Further checking found that Minnesota liberal arts colleges like Carleton and Macalester, frequently the darlings of national rankings, received D’s on the core-curriculum front. Minnesota’s highest grade was a B and it went to three institutions: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, St. Olaf College and the University of St. Thomas.

But U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Colleges 2011” rankings are just out, and in this overall assessment Yale is No. 3 behind Harvard (No. 1) and Princeton in the national university ranking. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities tied for 64th with four other institutions.  

The magazine’s national liberal arts college ranking was much kinder to Minnesota’s darlings: Carleton came in eighth and Macalester 26th. Other rankings in the top 100: St. Olaf (No. 51); St. John’s (No. 62); Gustavus Adolphus (No. 79) and College of St. Benedict (No. 81).

The Associated Press reports that greater weight was given to graduation rates this year than in the past. Among other 16 factors in the scores are retention rates, SAT scores and selectivity. High-school guidance counselors’ rankings also were included this year.

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One of the interesting categories is “A+ Options for B Students.” Rankings are divided by region, and Minnesota has a handful of institutions on the Midwest list: Hamline University (No. 9), Bethel University and St. Catherine University (tied for 17th), College of St. Scholastica (No. 24) and U of M-Duluth (No. 34).

The U.S. News’ ranking, which looked at more than 1,400 accredited schools, is the “most closely watched” list, according to the Associated Press. The ranking is “credited for helping students and parents sort through a dizzying college selection process but criticized by those who say it’s too arbitrary and pressures colleges to boost scores at the expense of teaching.”

One category looks at which institutions have the best undergraduate teaching. Carleton College placed first, Macalester seventh, and St. Olaf ninth on the national liberal-arts-colleges list; also on the list: the College of St. Benedict (25th) and St. John’s University (34th). Augsburg College placed sixth in the regional Midwest ranking.

In another category, U.S. News “asked the experts who respond to our annual peer assessment survey to identify institutions in their U.S. News ranking category that are making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, and student life.” The College of St. Benedict ranked third in this “Up and Coming” category among national liberal arts colleges. 

Readers: How have best-college rankings influenced your decisions on which colleges to choose?