A growing number of Minnesotans are using high-interest payday loans and other nontraditional financial services, according to statistics. Demand for payday loans doubled from 170,000 loans in 2007 to 350,000 -- the highest ever reported to the state Department of Commerce -- last year. Borrowers in 2011 paid fees and interest equivalent to average annual interest rates of 237 percent, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, with some loans reaching as high as 1,368 percent. While short-term lenders say their services are to be used only in emergencies, critics argue that the lenders' business model hinges on consumers taking out habitual loans, multiple times a year. Out of the 11,500 Minnesotans who used short-term loans last year, nearly a quarter took out 15 or more loans. Many fast-cash lenders in the state are not licensed as a payday lender. Instead, they are licensed as Industrial Loan and Thrift operations, which allows them to offer bigger loans at higher rates. In 1995, the state Legislature tried to minimize payday lending in the state by creating the Consumer Small Loan Lender Act, which capped the maximum amount of an individual loan at $350. That cap does not apply to businesses operating as Industrial Loan and Thrifts. Over the years, several lawmakers have introduced bills seeking to close the loophole, but none have been successful. Meanwhile, consumer advocates are concerned that payday lending practices are hurting borrowers -- including minority and low-income consumers -- and prolonging their dependence on quick, expensive cash.