Harvard and Princeton universities both reported record-breaking numbers of applications for the class of 2012 — the first class at both schools admitted without an early admissions program.

Harvard received 27,278 applications, a 19 percent increase over last year’s total of 22,955 applications, the Harvard Crimson reported Wednesday. Princeton announced Tuesday that the number of applicants increased by 6 percent from last year, to 20,118 applicants.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Brenzel said while he does not yet have final numbers, he expects Yale’s total number of applications to increase by more than the six-percent rise seen by Princeton. While Brenzel attributed Harvard’s increase to its new financial-aid policies, he and admissions consultants said they did not consider Princeton’s increase to be significant.

In a news release, Harvard sought to dispel claims that its December announcement of a sweeping financial-aid initiative contributed to the increased number of applicants, noting that application numbers were up from last year’s pace even before the initiative was announced, according to the Crimson.

Harvard’s new policy reduces the parental contributions for students whose families make less than $180,000 annually, eliminates the need for student loans and discontinues the consideration of home equity in aid calculations.

But Brenzel pointed out that Princeton, which did not announce a major financial-aid reform this admissions cycle, failed to experience a jump in applications comparable to Harvard’s. This phenomenon, combined with the increase in applications that Yale is seeing, indicates that the allure of Harvard’s new policy did contribute to the school’s rise in popularity, he explained.

Brenzel said Yale will likely see repercussions from its own financial aid announcement — which was unveiled after the Jan. 1 regular decision deadline — when the next crop of high school students applies for the class of 2013. Expanding the student body through two new residential colleges, on which the Yale Corporation is voting this semester, would allow more of these new applicants to be accepted, he said.

“If I am right about financial aid being the primary driver, next year could be both exciting and challenging for us in Yale admissions, given that we will enter the next cycle with an unprecedented financial-aid offering of our own,” he said. “At the same time, thousands more applicants translates into thousands more students being turned away.”

“From an admissions perspective,” he added, “I am glad that Yale has been thoroughly considering the option of expansion.”

Princeton Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye attributed the university’s increase in applicants to stepped-up recruitment efforts in a press release.

This fall, Princeton participated in a joint national tour with admissions staff from Harvard and the University of Virginia, which also eliminated its early admissions program last year.

“We reached out to more students from many backgrounds, including lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and we did a significant amount of travel during the month of November that we had never done before,” Rapelye said in the news release. “While we don’t tie an individual effort to the increase in applications, we do think this had an impact.”

Brenzel said he does not credit the record number of applicants to Princeton’s decision to drop its early decision program.

“It’s about the same level of increase they’ve had for the past three years as well, when they had early decision, so I’m not sure what it means, if anything,” he said.

Chuck Hughes, president of the admissions consulting firm Road to College, said Princeton’s increase in applicants is comparable to increases at many other universities across the country and does not represent a significant trend.

The pool of “superstar talent” does not grow very much each year, he said, so the increase most likely resulted from a larger number of students who decided to apply as a long shot.

In September 2006, Harvard and Princeton announced they would drop their early admission programs, citing concerns that the programs put students seeking financial aid at a disadvantage. Yale said in January 2007 that it would keep its non-binding early action program for at least one year.

Applications also went up at Cornell University. The Cornell admissions office received 32,655 total applications from its early and regular decision programs, representing a 7.5 percent increase over lasw year’s total.

Last year, Yale received a total of 19,323 applications for the class of 2011, an 8.4 percent drop from the previous year’s total.