in reply to Formal Education Required?
Of course, you know you will get nothing but biased answers. That being said, I'll give you my biased view.
Do I think a higher education is time well spent? Of course, but your reading from someone who spent 11 years after high school persuing a PhD. Could it be time well spent for you? Probably, but you'll have to figure out what you want to do there. I spend much of my time programming, but I don't have a CS or related background.
The second question is much harder to answer, since you (in the general sense) are the sum of all of your experiences, so any time you are looking for a job, both work and educational experiences matter. Would I consider hiring an 18 year old to do Sys or Network admin stuff. Very likely no, unless he had an outstanding resume, and I trusted his references. (Which would be very hard for you to have if you were moving somewhere new.)
I don't know if that is of any help, but it is just my $0.02.