The new U.S. News and World Report college rankings are out. But who's reading?

A decade ago, U.S. News was "pretty much the only ranking system," so parents paid attention to it, said Donna Kelly, co-owner of College Connectors, a company that helps families navigate the search. Now, "we hear about it less than we used to," Kelly said.

There's a growing number of imperfect ways to compare colleges. Among them: Washington Monthly's rankings, which criticize U.S. News for focusing on "fat endowments and prestige," and the newer Parchment, which analyzes where students are accepted, then decide to go.

But U.S. News is still the best known, and colleges still seem to care.

The University of St. Thomas sent out a news release announcing that it "climbs two spots in U.S. News rankings." The St. Paul school now ranks 113 among 281 schools within Best National Universities.

Carleton College again nabbed perhaps the most prestigious mark among Minnesota schools: No. 8 in Best National Liberal Arts Colleges.

But there's a category for most everyone, it seems.

Minnesota colleges ranked in the report's multitude of lists, which now include "Best Undergraduate Teaching" and "Up-and-Coming Schools."

One new category features "Best A-plus Schools for B Students." The magazine used admissions and retention data to determine "where non-superstars have a decent shot at being accepted and thriving."

Here are the Minnesotans that made that list: National universities: St. Thomas. National liberal arts colleges: St. Benedict, Concordia, Gustavus Adolphus, St. John's, University of Minnesota, Morris. Regional universities: Bethel, St. Scholastica, Hamline, St. Catherine, University of Minnesota Duluth. Regional colleges: Northwestern.

Kelly tells families not to focus on hierarchies but to dig into the graduation rates and class sizes behind them.

"The surveys do have a lot of good data," she said.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168