I already knew the answer to my question, but I did some poking around. If you want a freelance writing job, NOBODY will consider paying you even a few dollars without a degree.
So, they are saying "If you have a degree you can write well; and if you don't you're a stupid dumbass."
Take it from this dumbass, nothing is further from the truth. I have read work from people with degrees and they have written work you would castigate a 5th grader for.
One example is the opening page of a book I was asked to edit. 25 lines of script with no pauses, wrong and inconsistent capitalisations and no speech marks.
I gave up looking for work about 3 years ago, I got so insulted by these attitudes it made me ill.