This comes up in discussions a lot when you are an educator and especially in technology where a lot of people are self-taught.
The biggest thing a degree gives you if proof that you can accomplish a long term project - a bachelor's degree typically takes 4 years - with an arbitrary set of rules that can change. It also shows your potential employer how well you can follow the rules. If you get a bachelor's degree in 4 years vs. 5 years, for example. Now there are good exceptions to the 4 year thing -- if you show that you were supporting a family while getting that degree that can be impressive.
Having the degree means a lot if an employer is looking for someone that is going to be a team member for multiple years. I was hired by Texas Instruments as someone they wanted to invest time and energy into. I spent a lot of time learning the next thing working there.
A degree isn't necessary for contract work, but that employer is not looking for a long term employee -- they are looking for someone who has a specific set of skills, and they are not investing training, etc. You come in, you do the thing and you are out. I've done that too.
So the answer is: do you want to have a long term career with a company and grow with it, or do you just want to come in and do a job?