However, the market for software engineers is much more merit based right now. Many good engineering jobs that pay 6 figures require "a bachelors degree in a technical field or equivalent experience".
I'll be the first one to argue that attending a university is a good idea for someone who want to call him/herself a developer, but lack of a degree is not a showstopper to a great job. The reality though is that if/when the market for engineers slows down, employers will probably begin to apply the same filters. Even if a degree isn't required today, it might be a necessity in 5 years for someone starting out.
Namely, I know some developers who do not hold degrees themselves that have recently started listing a Bachelor's in computer science as a requirement for consideration on new job postings. It's not, obviously, because they think people who haven't been through college can't do the job. It's because they're already seeing so many applicants that the filter's being applied anyway, and they merely decided to start being up-front about it.